Mar 06, 2013 10:30 PM IST | Source: CNBC

Dow marches higher, extends all-time high

Stocks climbed Wednesday, with the Dow adding to its gains a day after hitting an all-time high, lifted by a better-than-expected private sector employment report.

Stocks climbed Wednesday, with the Dow adding to its gains a day after hitting an all-time high, lifted by a better-than-expected private sector employment report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened in positive territory, crossing above its all-time high. Bank of America and Hewlett-Packard led the blue-chip gainers.

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Almost four years after the bear-market low, the Dow Jones Industrial Average pierced through levels last seen in 2007 on Tuesday, amid signs of a strengthening economy and ongoing monetary support from the Federal Reserve.

The S&P 500 also rose, while Nasdaq toggled in and out of negative territory. The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, slid near 13. Most key S&P sectors opened higher, led by materials and financials.

Meanwhile, some analysts warned that the rally may be the beginning of a bubble. U.S. shares are up almost 7 percent since the start of the year, European markets have gained about 5 percent, while in Asia, Japanese shares have soared almost 13 percent.

"I think stocks could very well rally through the rest of this year, even into 2014 based on this wave of money, but at some point it will pop and collapse, and that's what investors need to bear in mind," Jim Rickards of Tangent Capital, told CNBC Asia's "Squawk Box".

On the economic front, private sector employment jumped by 198,000 in February, according to ADP's monthly report. Economists polled by Reuters expected a gain of 170,000. The report comes two days before the Labor Department reports the widely-followed non-farm payroll figures, with economists expecting a gain of 152,000.

Meanwhile, factory orders fell 2 percent in January amid weak demand for transportation equipment, according to the Commerce Department, against expectations for a decline of 2.2 percent. Orders gained 1.3 percent, excluding transportation.

The Federal Reserve is scheduled to release its Beige Book, its region-by-region assessment of the economy, at 2 pm ET. Crude oil inventories for last week will be released by the Energy Department at 10:30 am ET. Inventories rose by 1.13 million in the prior week.

Apple edged lower, putting a damper on the tech-heavy Nasdaq, after a batch of brokerages turned sour on the iPhone maker, Berenberg cut its rating on the company to "sell" from "buy." Citi lowered its price target to $480 from $500 and Barclays slashed its price objective to $530 from $575. Apple has plunged nearly 20 percent so far in 2013.

Qualcomm declined after Goldman Sachs removed the chipmaker from its "conviction buy" list, saying the chipset market has peaked this year.

Microsoft slumped to lead the Dow laggards after the European Union fined the software giant a hefty $731 million for breaking a pledge to offer PC users a choice of Internet browsers when they install the Windows operating system.

Among earnings, American Eagle Outfitters posted a higher quarterly profit, but shares tumbled after the teen apparel retailer handed in a disappointing current-quarter sales forecast, citing a tough economy.

Staples posted earnings that edged past expectations and also raised its quarterly dividend by one cent, but shares declined to lead the S&P 500 laggards after the office supply retailer reported revenue below estimates and estimates a lower-than-expected full-year forecast, due to weakness in Europe and North America.

Big Lots rallied to lead the S&P 500 gainers after the retailer topped Wall Street earnings and revenue expectations. PetSmart and Vail Resorts are among notable companies slated to post earnings after the closing bell.

JCPenney slipped after Citi and Openheimer downgraded the retailer to "neutral" from "buy and to "perform" from "outperform," respectively. (Read More: Martha Stewart Denies Wrongdoing With JC Penney Deal)

European shares traded higher, led by the telecommunications sector, boosted by reports that Vodafone is in talks with Verizonregarding a merger. Meanwhile, euro zone officials confirmed that the region's economy had shrunk by 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, its five consecutive quarter of decline.

However, political uncertainty in Italy kept investors on edge amid a Reuters report that President Giorgio Napolitano is considering appointing a new technocrat government, led by a non-politician, as a way out of Italy's political stalemate.

Also on the economic front, weekly mortgage applications jumped 14.8 percent last week to its highest level since mid-January, reversing three weeks of declines as interest rates dropped, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.




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