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Stocks Close Higher on Strong Corporate Earnings Reports

Stocks rose on Tuesday, with the Dow approaching a record high, as investors cheered a round of better-than-expected quarterly earnings and largely shrugged off worries over Ukraine.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed unofficially 86 points higher and is less than 100 points from hitting its all-time high of 16,631.63. The S&P 500 rose 8 points and the Nasdaq put on 29 points.

"Earning expectations were essentially zero, so I'm not sure what we accomplished. Guidance appears to be a little more positive, so that's good," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.

The Federal Open Market Committee kicked off its two-day meeting in Washington. Policy makers are expected to announce a fourth cut in the Federal Reserve's monthly bond purchases on Wednesday.

"With more than half of the S&P in, investors have a good idea of what the results are likely to be, so now we're looking back at the economy and the FOMC," said Ablin.

Investors largely shrugged off news from Ukraine. Earlier, the United States and European Union imposed more sanctions on Russia for its role in backing the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine.

Merck shares rose 3.6 percent after posting quarterly earnings that topped estimates, but the drug manufacturer's revenue fell just under expectations. The results came a day after Britain's Reckitt Benckiser confirmed it was in talks to acquire Merck's consumer health business for nearly $14 billion.

Sprint stock rose over 11 percent after the wireless carrier tallied a smaller-than-expected loss in the first quarter.

Shares of Coach dropped over 9 percent after the seller of upscale leather goods reported sales at North American stores fell for a fourth quarter, down 21 percent and worse than the nearly 15 percent decline anticipated by analysts.

The dollar gained against other global currencies and the 10-year Treasury yield rose a basis point to 2.716 percent. The cost of crude rose and gold prices fell.