U.S. benchmark stock indexes continued to trade at multi-year highs Tuesday after investors returned from an extended weekend to a host of fourth-quarter earnings reports.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 0.5% and the Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.5% -- new five-year highs for both. The Nasdaq composite index climbed 0.3%.
Also Tuesday, a Realtors' trade group reported that existing home sales declined 1% in December, but home sales rose 12.8% in 2012, a five-year high. A separate report from CoreLogic, a housing research group, said home prices rose 5.9% in 2012, slightly less than anticipated.
Tech stocks were mostly higher after Bloomberg reported that Microsoft (MSFT) may invest in a Dell (DELL) buyout to take the PC maker private. Verizon (VZ) shares are trading lower after the telecom giant took a big profit hit from expenses related to employee benefits.
A big week for tech earnings kicks offs Tuesday, with Verizon, AT&T (T) and Google (GOOG) posting fourth-quarter results. Tuesday, AT&T said it planned to buy Alltel's network, retail stores and licenses for $780 million to expand its presence in six states. Google has shot up 4% in after hours trading ahead of its earnings announcement, expected shortly.
Crude oil prices are up, with oil futures for February delivery up 0.6% at about $96.65 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond at 1.84% is falling, and the price of gold is up about $5 to $1,692 an ounce.
The euro is trading lower against the dollar at 1.3314, while the dollar is 1.3% lower against the Japanese yen at 88.69.
On Monday, Wall Street was closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The holiday coincided with inauguration ceremonies for President Obama's second term.
Markets around the world closed higher in the previous trading session. On Tuesday, Asian markets closed mixed, with Japan's benchmark index ending lower and most other indexes finishing up for the day.
In Europe, key indexes in Britain, Germany and France ended the day lower. Britain's FTSE 100 index was flat at 6,179.17, while the German DAX 30 index was down 0.7% to 7,696.21 for the day, and France's CAC-40 index finished down 0.6% at 3,741.01.
In Japan Tuesday, the nation's central bank concluded a monetary-policy meeting. The Bank of Japan announced open-ended asset purchases that will pump money into the financial system. The BOJ also set a formal inflation target of 2%. The Nikkei 225 benchmark index fell about 0.4%.