Strong earnings help stocks end trading higher

/ Source: The Associated Press

Stronger earnings reports from Ford and 3M helped drive end higher Tuesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 115.49 points, or 0.93 percent, to 12,595.37. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 11.99 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,347.24. The Nasdaq composite rose 21.66 points, or 0.77 percent, to 2,847.54.

Ford Motor Co. rose 2 percent after the carmaker reported its best first quarter earnings since 1998. Ford beat Wall Street's earnings estimates with stronger sales of new vehicles.

3M Co. also rose 2 percent. The maker of Post-Its and Scotch Tape said quarterly profit jumped 16 percent from a year ago, beating analysts' estimates. 3M raised its full-year earnings expectations despite taking a hit from the earthquake in Japan.

If the S&P 500 closes above 1,343, it will set a new high for the year and reach its highest level since bottoming out at a 12-year low in March 2009.

The market's continued rebound is crucial to luring nervous Americans back into investing in stocks, said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist at RidgeWorth Investments in Richmond, Virginia.

Gayle said he talks to a lot of retail investors who were burned when markets dropped in 2000 and 2008 and remain wary of putting their savings into stocks.

"The stock market in the last 10 years has disappointed a lot of investors," Gayle said. "There are some lasting scars there."

The Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 65.4 in April from a revised 63.8 in March. Economists expected a smaller rise.

The Federal Reserve begins a two-day meeting on Tuesday. Economists expect the Fed will leave short-term interest rates unchanged and end its $600 billion bond-buying program in June as scheduled. The bond-buying effort has been credited with lifting financial markets since Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke first hinted at it last August.