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S&P nears record as home price surge elevates stocks

Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

NEW YORK -- The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed within a short reach of its all-time high on Tuesday. Rising home prices and orders for manufactured goods drove stocks up from the opening bell.

The S&P 500 index rose 12.08 points, or 0.8 percent, to close at 1,563.77. That's less than two points from the peak it reached on Oct. 9, 2007, before a recession and ensuing financial crisis battered markets.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 111.90 points, also 0.8 percent, to 14,559.65.

"Unless something major comes along to derail this rally, it just seems like the market is going to keep climbing higher," said Marty LeClerc, the managing partner of Barrack Yard Advisors, an investment firm in Bryn Mawr, Pa.

Factory orders surged in February, helped by stronger demand for commercial aircraft. Overall orders for durable goods, a catchall term for products ranging from refrigerators to jumbo jets, jumped 5.7 percent from the previous month, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. It was the biggest increase in five months.

The stock market's gains were widely shared. All 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 rose, with health care and energy companies leading the way.

Smaller companies, which have been beating the market all year, didn't do as well Tuesday. The Nasdaq composite rose 17.18 points, or 0.5 percent, to 3,252.48, and the Russell 2000 rose 3.97 points, or 0.4 percent, to 949.82. That's roughly half of the S&P 500's gain.

Big company stocks and small-company stocks often part ways, said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago. Big corporations generally have stronger ties to Europe, and their stocks wavered over the past week as traders kept an eye on negotiations to rescue Cyprus.

By contrast, smaller companies are less exposed to the rest of the world. "That's part of the reason small-caps have outpaced the market this year," Ablin said.

The S&P 500, used by investors as a proxy for the overall market, is up 9.7 percent so far this year. The Russell 2000 has fared better, rising 11.8 percent.

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