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Dow ends at all-time high above 15,000

Stocks finished near their best levels Tuesday, with the S&P 500 extending its recent rally to a fresh high and the Dow closing above the 15,000 milestone for the first time, but the Nasdaq lagged as investors took profit in the large techs.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished above 15,000 for the first time.Caterpillar and JPMorgan led the blue-chip gainers. The index first broke above the milestone on Friday.

Interestingly, the Dow also ended higher for the 17th consecutive Tuesday. This is the first time in history that the index has posted such a streak.

The S&P 500 rose to enter bull market territory, climbing 20 percent since its lows in mid-November. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq eked out a small gain. The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, ended below 13.

So far this year, the Dow has surged an impressive 14 percent, while the S&P and Nasdaq have soared more than 13 percent each.

Most key S&P sectors were higher, led by industrials and energy. Techs were in the red.

"The market is still exhibiting good karma from last week's employment report," said Cam Albright, director of asset allocation at Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors. "Some of the news that's coming out of Europe has been a bit more positive as well – the German factory orders report was helpful."

European shares were higher following some better-than-expected earnings and after German manufacturing orders for March rose 2.2 percent, topping expectations for a decline.

Meanwhile, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi said the central bank is closely watching incoming data and is ready to take further action, if needed, to address economic weakness.

Meanwhile, in Japan, the country's benchmark Nikkei index reached its highest level since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, boosted by the weak yen, which has lost more than 1 percent since Thursday.

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"The U.S. economy and markets have led the way and now we're seeing better performance out of Europe and some of the Asian markets this month, so those things are all positive," added Albright. "Valuations are not overly stretched either, so from that perspective, it's not inappropriate to add to positions."

Widely-followed hedge fund manager David Einhorn said he had added to his investment position in Apple. The stock, however, turned negative following the news as investors took the announcement as an opportunity to cash in on the iPhone maker's recent run.

And other major tech giants including Apple, Google and Microsoft were in the red as investors took profit following the recent rally in the tech sector.

Among earnings, Discovery Communications posted better-than-expected quarterly results and forecast annual revenue above estimates.

DirecTV rallied after the satellite TV provider blew past Wall Street estimates, helped by better-than-expected growth in Latin America.

OfficeMax posted lower-than-expected earnings, hurt by continued weak sales of technology products and fewer customers. But shares gained after the office supply retailer announced a special dividend of $1.50 a share. The company is awaiting regulatory approval for its pending merger with Office Depot.

Dow component Walt Disney is scheduled to post results after the closing bell. Separately, the conglomerate said it is teaming up with videogames publisher Electronic Arts to develop games based on the "Star Wars" movies. EA is also slated to report earnings after the closing bell, in addition to Symantec,WholeFoods and TripAdvisor.

More than 85 percent of S&P 500 companies have posted quarterly results so far, with 67 percent topping earnings expectations and 23 percent missing forecasts, according to Reuters. If all remaining companies post numbers in line with estimates, earnings will be up 5.4 percent on last year.

But on average, sales have come in 1 percent below estimates, with only 46 percent of companies beating their revenue projections.

On the economic front, consumer credit rose a meager $7.97 billion to $2.81 trillion in March, its smallest increase in eight months, according to the Federal Reserve. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a gain of $16 billion.

The government auctioned $32 billion in 3-year notes at a high yield of 0.354 percent. The bid-to-cover ratio, an indicator of demand, was 3.38.

—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park. Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC