Dow, S&P Hit New Record Highs as Financials Rally


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The Dow and S&P 500 climbed to new all-time highs on Tuesday, with financials leading the way higher.

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Today's Markets

As of 2:55 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 78.2 points, or 0.52%, to 15169, the S&P 500 rose 11.8 points, or 0.72%, to 1645 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 14.5 points, or 0.42%, to 3453.

Every major sector was recently in the green. Financial stocks, like Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and J.P. Morgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) posted the biggest gains by a wide margin. Health care, utilities, energy and consumer discretionary stocks also performed well.

Wall Street has been driven so far this week by mounting discussions of the Federal Reserve's exit from its vast quantitative easing program. Currently, the central bank is adding to its balance sheet at rate of $85 billion a month -- a move aimed at lowering long-term interest rates. However, critics worry about the inflationary pressure the highly-accommodative stance might cause.

Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser, currently an alternate on the central bank's policy-setting board, once again pushed for the Fed to begin slowing down its quantitative easing program. In a speech in Sweden, he said the Fed could begin slowing down the pace of asset purchases by the June meeting, and then halt them altogether by the end of the year.

Also on the economic front, the Commerce Department said U.S. import prices slid 0.5% in April from March, matching economists’ expectations. Export prices dropped 0.7%, the largest decline since June, and steeper than forecasts of a 0.2% dip.

In Europe, a closely-watched survey on German economic sentiment from the ZEW Institute came in well below expectations. The gauge came in at 36.4 in May, well shy of economists' forecasts of 40. The data point a picture of an economy that is still struggling with headwinds from the eurozone debt crisis.

Elsewhere, in corporate news, Daniel Loeb's Third Point has urged Sony (NYSE:SNE) to sell part of its entertainment division in an initial public offering, according to several media reports. Citigroup (NYSE:C) upped its price target on Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), the blue-chip retailer, by $7 to $89 a share.

Commodities markets were lightly changed. U.S. crude oil futures fell 28 cents, or 0.29%, to $94.89 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline rose 0.02% to $2.813 a gallon. In metals, gold dropped $7.30, or 0.5%, to $1,427 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets 

The Euro Stoxx 50 dipped 0.3% to 2769 the English FTSE 100 slipped 0.12% to 22930 and the German DAX fell 0.1% to 8271.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slumped 0.16% to 14748 and Chinese Hang Seng dropped 0.26% to 22930.

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