Dow Has Best Close Since June 2001

Stocks rose sharply Tuesday, sending the Dow Jones industrials to its best close since June 2001, amid better-than-expected earnings from investment banks Morgan Stanley and Bear Stearns and a rebound of drugmaker Pfizer's shares.

The Dow Jones industrial average (search) gained 97.83 points, or 0.92 percent, to 10,759.43, its highest close since June 13, 2001. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (search) rose 10.78 points, or 0.90 percent, to close back above the 1,200 level at 1,205.43. Last week, the S&P 500 closed above 1,200 for the first time in more than three years.

The Nasdaq Composite Index (search) was up 23.06 points, or 1.08 percent, to finish at 2,150.91.

Stocks have climbed steadily since the presidential elections, with good economic data and positive profit forecasts for 2005 assuring investors of further returns. The markets also benefited from the traditional "Santa Claus" rally, as mutual funds and money managers shuffle their portfolio before year's end.

"We've seen a relatively strong day today — continuing the trend that we've seen in the fourth quarter," said John Forelli, senior vice president and portfolio manager at Independence Investments LLC.

"My belief is that for the first nine months of the year, the market basically did nothing," Forelli said, "and we're playing a lot of catch-up now in the fourth quarter that should have happened earlier this year."

Dow component Intel (INTC) shot up 3.5 percent after Lehman Brothers raised its investment rating on the stock to "overweight" from "underweight," citing expectations for a solid fourth quarter and a strong pipeline of products.

Some dealers pointed to seasonal buying. Stocks typically gain in late December in a so-called "Santa rally" falling within the last five days of the year and the first two in January.

"We've got a seasonal bias going into the end of the year and into the first week of January, which should play itself out to the upside," said John Hughes, managing director at Epiphany Equity Research.

IAC/InterActive Corp. (IACI) also boosted the Nasdaq, jumping nearly 6 percent, or $1.53, to $27.41 after saying it will spin off its online travel service — turning itself into a diversified interactive commerce company.

"The InterActive news is important — it shows that companies see some value within themselves," Hughes said. "We've had a lot of merger activity over the last few weeks, which is an encouraging sign."

While brokerage stocks remained volatile, the 2005 outlooks from Morgan Stanley (MWD) and Bear Stearns Companies Inc. (BSC) renewed investors' hopes that the first half of the new year will see continued economic and earnings growth.

Bear Stearns reported a 22 percent jump in profits, well above analysts' forecasts, but its shares were off $1.80 at $102.70 as a possible sale of the company was seen as less likely. Morgan Stanley also beat expectations and gained 85 cents at $54.50 despite missing Wall Street's revenue forecasts.

Meanwhile, Pfizer (PFE) gained nearly 3 percent, after a study of Alzheimer's patients eased investors' fears that U.S. regulators will force Pfizer to withdraw its arthritis drug Celebrex. On Friday, Pfizer's stock slid 11 percent after a cancer-prevention study showed that large doses of the drug increased the risk of heart attack.

The National Institutes of Health (search) said it suspended its Alzheimer's disease prevention trial after finding that patients taking naproxen had a 50 percent greater incidence of heart attack or stroke than patients a taking placebo. The study was trying to determine if naproxen helped to reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer's in patients considered at risk for the disease.

Naproxen is sold as a generic and under several brand names including Bayer AG's (BAY) Aleve and as Naprosyn through a subsidiary of Swiss company Roche AG.

"The pharmaceutical sector was seeing some strength before the Celebrex warning and then it saw a pullback. So the news on Pfizer is somewhat positive but you can expect lot more volatility in these stocks," said Jay Indovino, head of trading at Sungard Institutional Brokerage Inc.

Pfizer was up 68 cents at $24.97 on the news, but other drug makers were flat to down as the sector remained under scrutiny. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was off 35 cents at $46.15, and Abbott Labs (ABT) was off 32 cents at $46.10.

Oil prices hovered around flat as milder weather in the immediate term eased concerns about thin fuel stocks, but worries about possible supply disruption in the Middle East and Russia limited selling. U.S. light crude was down 2 cents at $45.76 a barrel.

Shares of Cablevision Systems Corp. (CVC) jumped $2.95, or 13.3 percent, to $25.06 after the cable TV provider said it would seek a buyer for its startup satellite broadcasting business. Investors had been skeptical about the viability of the high-definition satellite TV service, which is marketed under the brand name Voom.

The Philadelphia Stock Exchange (search) semiconductor index, a widely followed benchmark for chip stocks, rose 1.2 percent, helped by Intel's upgrade. Intel closed up 79 cents at $23.48.

Trading was active, with 1.48 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, just above the 1.4 billion daily average for last year. About 1.97 billion shares were traded on Nasdaq, above the 1.69 billion daily average last year.

Advancers outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by about 12 to 5, and 5 to 3 on Nasdaq.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 8.15, or 1.28 percent, at 646.20.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.2 percent. In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 closed up 0.04 percent, France's CAC-40 gained 0.16 percent for the session, and Germany's DAX index climbed 0.07 percent.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.