U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday as the first major set of fourth-quarter earnings came in largely higher than expected, suggesting that the recent run-up in anticipation of results was justified.

Stocks have rallied in recent weeks in part on hopes of stronger corporate profits, with the S&P up 8.1 percent since the start of December.

Alcoa Inc posted a quarterly profit that topped Wall Street's expectations, though revenue slightly missed the analyst average estimate. The aluminum maker also forecast a 12 percent rise in demand this year.

Both Sears Holding Corp and Tiffany & Co raised their profit outlooks, citing strong sales.

Along with Alcoa, these raised outlooks suggest a stronger-than-expected season ahead, said Adam Sarhan, chief executive at the New York-based Sarhan Capital.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 52.63 points, or 0.45 percent, at 11,690.08. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 6.19 points, or 0.49 percent, at 1,275.94. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 11.52 points, or 0.43 percent, at 2,719.32.

Alcoa shares slid 1.2 percent to $16.30 but are up 24 percent since the start of December. Sears rose 8.8 percent to $76.77, and Tiffany rose 2.3 percent to $62.41.

Homebuilder Lennar Corp rose 6.1 percent to $20.10 after posting a fourth-quarter profit sharply higher than expected.

Supermarket chain Supervalu Inc shed 12.7 percent to $7.50 after posting an adjusted third-quarter profit that missed expectations.

U.S. wholesale inventories for November will be reported at 10 a.m. (1500 GMT) on a light day for economic data. Inventories were expected to gain 1.0 percent after a 1.9 percent rise in October. Estimates for November ranged from 0.5-2.0 percent in a Reuters poll.

(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)