General Electric delivered a shot of confidence to U.S. investors when it raised its dividend on Friday, pushing the S&P 500 through the key 1,100 level.

GE gained nearly 4 percent in high volume after the U.S. conglomerate increased its quarterly dividend by 20 percent. GE's move spurred heavy institutional buying and sparked a decisive move higher, a positive sign of rising investor optimism.

The wide-ranging impact GE has on the economy, coupled with another round of strong earnings, bolstered investor confidence.

GE is a company whose tentacles extend throughout large parts of the economy, and (the hike) clearly shows they're (having) a bit more visibility on their future cash flows, said Adrian Cronje, chief investment officer of Atlanta-based wealth management firm Balentine.

Still, he noted the new 12 cent dividend was far below the 31 cents per quarter the company paid its shareholders before February 2009.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 102.32 points, or 0.99 percent, to 10,424.62. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> rose 8.99 points, or 0.82 percent, to 1,102.66. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> added 23.58 points, or 1.05 percent, to 2,269.47.

The S&P 500 rose above 1,100 for the first time in a month. The gain -- along with other chart moves, such as an uptick on its daily moving average convergence-divergence, or MACD -- sent a bullish technical signal to investors.

The Nasdaq erased losses for the year and ended flat while the Dow and S&P 500 remained negative so far in 2010.

Manufacturers Honeywell International Inc and Ingersoll-Rand Plc posted better-than-expected results and raised full-year earnings views, further allowing investors to push aside fears of a return to negative growth.

Honeywell added 2 percent to $43.50 and Ingersoll-Rand gained 1.3 percent to $37.29.

On the whole the earnings season has been strong, said Anton Schutz, who manages the Burnham Financial Funds as president at Mendon Capital in Rochester, New York.

I think you got a pretty resilient economy despite the headlines.


Genzyme Corp jumped 15.4 percent to $62.52 after French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis approached the biotechnology company about an acquisition.

Hoping to ease fears over any impact from the euro zone debt crisis, European regulators assessed how banks would cope with another downturn. Seven of 91 banks failed the tests, fewer than expected, but analysts questioned whether the tests were tough enough.

About 8.5 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, below last year's estimated daily average of 9.65 billion.

Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a ratio of about 4 to 1, while on the Nasdaq, about seven stocks rose for every two that fell.

(Additional reporting by Joe Rauch in Charlotte; Editing by Kenneth Barry)