Dow hits highest level since October 2007
Stocks drifted higher Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average hitting a fresh five-year high ahead of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address later this evening.
With the Dow's move higher, the blue-chip average is now less than 1 percent from its all-time record close of 14,164.53 hit on Oct. 9, 2007. The Dow is up more than 7 percent so far in 2013.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose above the psychologically-important 14,000 level, led by Bank of America, after finishing in the red in lackluster trading in the previous session.
The S&P 500 and the Nasdaqalso climbed into positive territory after fluctuating in a narrow range for most of the morning. The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, dipped below 13.
Among key S&P sectors, financialsclimbed to a fresh four-year high, while techsheld small losses. S&P financial stocks at new multi-year highs include T.Rowe Price, American Express and AIG.
President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver his annual address at 9 pm ET, and will outline policy goals for his second term. He is expected to focus on the "sequester" of automatic spending cuts that will kick in after March 1 if Congress takes no action to stop them.
"Everyone's expecting a campaign speech from Obama," said Brian Battle, vice president of trading at Performance Trust Capital Partners. "It will be interesting to see the specifics of how big of an agenda he has an his time frame—that will set the tone for the sequestration spending talks that will happen in the next two weeks."
Apple dipped into negative territory as CEO Tim Cook said he will "thoroughly consider" hedge fund manager David Einhorn's cash-return proposal.
"Apple makes bold and ambitious bets on product, and we're conservative financially...To add to that fact, we're returning $45 billion to shareholders through a combination of dividends and buybacks," said Cook, speaking at Goldman Sachs' Technology and Internet conference. "Last quarter alone, the cash flow from operations was over $23 billion. It's an incredible privilege where we can seriously consider returning additional cash to our shareholders. The management team and the board are in very-active discussions. That's what our shareholders want." (Read More:Cook: Apple Doesn't Have 'Depression' Mentality)
Among earnings, Coca-Cola declined to lead the Dow laggards after the beverage giant posted revenue that was slightly below expectations, hurt by weakness in Europe.
Michael Kors soared after the specialty retailer blew past earnings expectations and topped revenue estimates, as same-store sales surged and the company added new stores.
Fossil climbed after the fashion accessories retailer edged past earnings and revenue forecasts, thanks to strong revenue growth in North America and Asia.
Avon Products jumped to lead the S&P 500 gainers after the beauty and personal products company posted better-than-expected earnings.
Cliffs Natural Resources, Buffalo Wild Wings and Clearwire are among notable companies slated to post earnings after the closing bell.
On the tech front, Facebook declined after Bernstein downgraded the social-networking giant to "market perform" from "outperform." And Qualcomm slid after JPMorgan cut its rating on the semiconductor company to "neutral" from "overweight."
On the economic front, small business sentiment edged up in January to 88.9 last month, according to the optimism index from the National Federation of Independent Business, as owners anticipated better business conditions in the next six months, despite higher taxes and looming government spending cuts.
Treasury prices held their losses after the government auctioned $32 billion in 3-year notes at a high yield of 0.411 percent. The bid-to-cover ratio was 3.59.
The Treasury Department's monthly budget for January will be issued at 2pm ET.