NEW YORK - Just two months after recovering the last of its losses from the financial crisis, the Dow Jones industrial average charged higher Tuesday, closing above 15,000 for the first time.
The latest milestone in the market's epic ascent of 2013 came after good economic reports, strong corporate earnings and fresh support from central banks eased investors' concerns about another economic slowdown.
Many had been on the lookout for signs that a spring swoon would derail the rally, as happened in each of the past three years. Instead, Wall Street has climbed almost 15 percent since Jan. 1.
"The thing that's been driving stocks is rising confidence," said James Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management. "Economic growth, job creation and the housing market have been better than expected."
News of stronger hiring over the past three months briefly propelled the Dow over 15,000 on Friday, but it ended the week below that mark.
Wall Street followed Japanese and European markets higher after they responded to good news about central bank stimulus and the German economy. In the U.S., the market got a lift from higher quarterly profits at satellite TV company DirecTV and watchmaker Fossil.
The Dow closed at 15,056.20, up 87.31 points, or 0.6 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 8.46 points to 1,625.96, a gain of 0.5 percent. Both indexes reached all-time highs earlier this year, then kept climbing, largely driven by optimism that the U.S. economy will continue gaining strength.
"We don't think people are giving enough credit to the strength of the economy," said Ryan Detrick, a senior technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research. "We still like the market."
The gains piled up with the growing realization among investors that the traditional threats to a rising market - higher interest rates, falling profits, a possible recession - are unlikely to appear anytime soon. What's more, with interest rates near record lows, they see few other places to put their money.
Record-high profits have also encouraged investors who fretted that slumping sales would lead to shrinking earnings. More than 400 of the S&P 500 companies have turned in first-quarter results, and more than seven out of 10 have beaten Wall Street's earnings expectations, according to S&P Capital IQ. Those analysts estimate that earnings increased 5 percent in the first quarter and will pick up their pace through the rest of the year.