MARKET SNAPSHOT: Dow Sets Fresh Intraday Record Above 26,000

By Victor Reklaitis and Anora M. Gaudiano, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

S&P 500, Nasdaq, Russell 2000 set intraday all-time highs

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged to trade in record territory and above the 26,000 level for the first time while other benchmarks set all-time highs as quarterly earnings reports and economic data continued to fuel optimism on Wall Street.

What are the benchmarks doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 250 points, or 1%, to 26,056, with 25 of its 30 components trading higher. Merck & Co Inc.(MRK) and UnitedHelath Group Inc(UNH) were leading gains, up 5% and 2% respectively.

The S&P 500 advanced 20 points, or 0.7%, to 2,805 with nine of the 11 main sectors trading higher. Real estate, technology and consumer-discretionary shares led the gains.

The Nasdaq Composite rose 58 points, or 0.8%, to 7,319.

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The Russell 2000 index of small companies rose 8 points, or 0.5%, to 1,600.

All main indexes hit intraday all-time highs shortly after the opening bell.

Check out:This epic stock-market rally will get a second wind from stellar earnings (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-epic-stock-market-rally-will-get-a-second-wind-from-stellar-earnings-2018-01-13)

What is driving markets?

The three major equity benchmarks have risen between 23% and 31% over the past 12 months, helped by factors such as an expanding U.S. economy, growth in corporate profits and enthusiasm over President Donald Trump administration's business-friendly policies, including tax cuts.

The Empire State manufacturing survey (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/empire-state-factory-gauge-softens-a-bit-in-january-2018-01-16) slipped to 17.7 in January from a revised 19.6 in December, the New York Fed said. Economists had expected activity to inch up to 18.6, according to a survey by Econoday.

Check out:MarketWatch's Economic Calendar (http://www.marketwatch.com/economy-politics/calendars/economic)

On the Federal Reserve front, no officials are slated to give speeches on Tuesday.

What are strategists saying?

"Optimism on Wall Street is pretty high as a lot of previously skeptical and bearish investors have turned into stock market fans lately," said Brett Schutte, chief investment strategist at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Co.

"But there are reasons for optimism as we have great economic background, growing earnings and still low inflation," Schutte said.

The S&P 500 "has gained an impressive 4.2% in the new year as its uptrend has steepened," said Katie Stockton, BTIG's chief technical strategist, in a note.

"We are looking for a pullback in the 4%-5% range into February. This would be a welcome development, because it would alleviate the market of overly bullish sentiment without likely taking a toll on positive long-term momentum."

Which stocks are in focus?

UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s stock (UNH) was up 1.2% after the insurer posted quarterly earnings and revenue that topped expectations.

Citigroup Inc.'s (C) reported a loss in the fourth quarter, as its earnings were wiped out by a $22 billion charge related to the new tax law. Shares were trading 1.9% higher.

Shares of Merck & Co.(MRK) jumped 6% after the company announced positive results (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/merck-shares-jump-3-on-news-of-positive-results-from-lung-cancer-trial-2018-01-16)in a late-stage lung cancer trial.

General Electric Co.'s stock (GE) fell 3.2% after the conglomerate said a review of GE Capital's insurance portfolio would result in a $6.2 billion after-tax charge (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ges-stock-sinks-after-unveiling-62-billion-charge-in-q4-2018-01-16) in the fourth quarter.

Shares in Ford Motor Co. (F) rose 1%, after the auto maker teased an all-electric SUV (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ford-teases-all-electric-mach-1-suv-coming-in-2020-2018-01-14) -- the "Mach 1" -- on Sunday, saying it will spend $11 billion on electric cars through 2022. Ford made the announcement at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Also at the Detroit event, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV(FCA.MI)(FCA.MI) CEO Sergio Marchionne said Monday he has no plans to sell its Jeep business or split up the company (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fiat-chrysler-ceo-rules-out-split-jeep-sale-2018-01-16), cooling speculation but leaving the company's long-term strategy unclear. Shares were down 2.8%.

Energy giant BP PLC(BP.LN) (BP.LN) said Tuesday it expects to book a $1.7 billion post-tax charge (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bp-to-book-17-billion-deepwater-horizon-charge-2018-01-16-34853027) in its fourth-quarter earnings for claims associated with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout. BP's U.S.-listed shares were down 2.4%.

Shares of Viacom Inc.(VIA) fell 3.7% after The Wrap on Friday reported that Shari Redstone, president of National Amusements, which owns controlling interests in Viacom and CBS Corp. (CBSA) was reengaging the two media companies in talks to merge.

What are other markets doing?

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index , which measures the buck against a basket of six rivals, was up 0.3% from Monday's level to 90.73, paring its year-to-date loss to 1.5%.

Bitcoin's spot price (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bitcoin-tumbles-to-6-week-low-as-top-cryptocurrencies-all-sell-off-2018-01-16) was down sharply to a six-week low, as the top cryptocurrencies all sold off. European equities (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-head-higher-as-euro-pulls-back-2018-01-16) and Asian markets (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/asian-stocks-bounce-back-hang-seng-aims-for-a-record-2018-01-16) have scored gains. Gold futures were little changed, and oil futures (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-pulls-back-from-3-year-high-with-brent-below-70-2018-01-16) were pulling back.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 16, 2018 10:08 ET (15:08 GMT)