U.S. stocks advanced on Wednesday after stronger-than-expected Dell earnings and a flurry of deal news.

The benchmark S&P 500 rose above 1,333.58, double the intraday low hit in early March 2009.

Dell Inc , the world's No. 2 personal computer maker, flew past profit and margins estimates in the latest show of strength from corporate America that has helped lift stocks. Dell jumped 9.9 percent to $15.28.

French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis SA agreed to buy Genzyme Corp for $20.1 billion in cash, pushing up Genzyme shares 1.6 percent to $75.48.

In another proposed deal, activist investor Nelson Peltz's Trian Group offered to acquire Family Dollar Stores Inc for $55 to $60 per share in cash, giving the company an implied value of $7.6 billion. Family Dollar soared 23.7 percent to $54.40.

Merger and acquisition activity has picked up, raising investor hopes it will bring more fresh cash into the market.

It seems as if the market has a very strong bid underneath stock prices. There seems to be a desire to get invested. So any time there's a pullback, if the next day there's a hint of good news, the market bounces back, said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at North Star Investment Management Corp in Chicago.

It's a market that people in general are trying to get back involved with, he said.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 73.07 points, or 0.60 percent, at 12,299.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 9.37 points, or 0.71 percent, at 1,337.38. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> put on 23.17 points, or 0.83 percent, at 2,827.52.

Even though the market slipped on Tuesday from 2-1/2-year highs, stocks have been rallying since early September, with the S&P 500 up more than 25 percent in that period.

Trian's bid for Family Dollar helped shares of other discount retailers. Dollar Tree Inc was up 4.3 percent to $53.14 while Dollar General Corp rose 13 percent to $30.39.

(Additional reporting by Edward Krudy, editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)