Investors, hoping for something better than 2011's flat stock market, pushed shares higher on Tuesday to begin the new year, though questions remain about whether a rally can be sustained.

Based on the latest available data, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 176.87 points, or 1.45 percent, at 12,394.43. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 19.18 points, or 1.53 percent, at 1,276.78. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 43.20 points, or 1.66 percent, at 2,648.35.

(Reporting By Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Kenneth Barry)