NEW YORK - The stock market marched back into record territory as investors seized on the latest encouraging news about the economy. On Tuesday, it was a report on the health of small businesses.
Small business owners were slightly more optimistic in April, according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business. That helped push the Russell 2000, an index of small-company stocks, up 1.3 percent.
The Russell index is 16.1 percent higher since the start of the year, and is up more than the Standard & Poor's 500 index, which includes larger, global companies.
The advance in small-company stocks is another sign of how optimistic investors have become. Smaller stocks are more risky than large ones, but also offer investors the prospect of greater returns.
Another closely watched stock market indicator has also been on a tear: transportation stocks. The Dow Transport average rose 1.9 percent Tuesday and is up 21.8 percent this year, far more than other major indexes.
The prospect of continued stimulus from the Federal Reserve has also supported the market's run-up.
For stock investors, the U.S. economy is "not too hot, not too cold," says Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial. It's weak enough that the Fed will continue its $85 billion-a-month economic stimulus program, but strong enough for companies to generate healthy earnings.
The U.S. economy grew 2.5 percent in the first quarter. While hiring has picked up, the unemployment rate is still at 7.5 percent, above the 6.5 percent rate that the Federal Reserve is targeting. As a result the central bank is expected to keep buying bonds to hold down long-term interest rates and encourage more borrowing and spending.
The Dow rose 123.57 points, or 0.8 percent, to 15,215.25. The S&P 500 index rose 16.57 points, or 1 percent, to 1,650.34 Both are at all-time highs. The Nasdaq composite index rose 23.82 points, or 0.7 percent, to 3,462.61.
The market got support after hedge fund manager David Tepper said that he is still bullish on stocks. Speaking on CNBC, Tepper said that investors shouldn't worry about the Fed tapering its stimulus program. The money manager has about $18 billion under management, according to the broadcaster.
Bank of America climbed to its highest in more than two years. The stock rose 36 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $13.34. JPMorgan rose 56 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $50.23.
The Dow has risen 16.1 percent this year, the S&P 500 index 15.7 percent.
The price of crude oil fell 96 cents, or 1 percent, to $94.21 a barrel. Gold fell $9.80, or 0.7 percent, to $1,424.50.