Riding on reports from Italy that its parliament took a big step toward forming a government, the S&P 500 hit an all-time high at 1,593, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) gained 106 points, or 0.7%, to 14,819, less than 50 points from its record.
After highly divided election results two months ago that sent the Dow plunging, the Italian government gave an overwhelming confidence vote to new Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who was backed by his own center-left Democratic Party as well as two other parties, each of which was led by former Prime Ministers Silvio Berlusconi and Mario Monti. Letta has promised to fight against the austerity measures that have been favored by the European Central Bank and will instead take steps to encourage economic growth first. The decision shores up worries that instability in the eurozone's largest economically strapped country should not be a going concern.
Elsewhere, March pending home sales jumped more than expected, growing 1.5% on essentially flat expectations, giving an added boost to stocks today.
Tech stocks led the Dow's march up as Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) gained 2.7%. There was no major company-focused news, but the PC maker found itself awash in bullish sentiment once again. OptionMONSTER reported a particularly large bullish trade on June puts and calls as a single investor made bets on nearly 2 million shares. Board member Marc Andreessen also reaffirmed his faith in the company.
Close behind HP, IBM (NYSE: IBM ) jumped 2.5% as the tech services giant announced a new initiative called MessageSight, aimed at helping businesses sort through machine-to-machine communications. According to the company's press release, MessageSight can support "one million concurrent sensors and scale up to 13 million messages per second."
Finally, outside the tech sector, Disney (NYSE: DIS ) rose 1.8% to a new all-time high, finishing at $63 even, after getting an upgrade from UBS. The Swiss bank bumped up its rating on the media titan from neutral to buy, saying it expected increases on return on capital and for its theme parks' margin to increase. UBS also saluted the acquisitions Disney made with Marvel and, more recently, Lucasfilm, saying those should fuel additional growth. Disney will report earnings next Tuesday. Analysts expect a per-share profit of $0.76 on $10.5 billion in revenue.
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