The Dow Jones started fast and never looked back, finishing at a record high of 14253.77,  exceeding its record closing level in October 2007.

The New York Stock Exchange (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

It jumped from the opening bell, climbed as much as 158 points early and reached 14,286, breaking through its previous record high from October 2007.

Nasdaq finished the day at 3224.13, up 42.10.

Twenty eight stocks in the 30-member Dow advanced, with industrial companies leading the gains. Cisco System rose 46 cents, or 2 percent, to $21.20 and United Technologies climbed $1.89, or 2 percent, to $91.

The gains represent a remarkable comeback for the stock market. The Dow has more than doubled since falling to a low of 6,547 in March 2009 following the financial crisis and the onset of the Great Recession. Stocks have rebounded sharply since then, helped by stimulus from the Federal Reserve, even as the economic recovery has been slow and steady.

The last time the Dow was this high, Apple had just sold its first iPhone and George W. Bush had another year as president. The U.S. housing market had yet to bottom, and the financial crisis that brought down Lehman Brothers was still a year away.

The recovery in stocks may even have been quicker had memories of the financial system's near-collapse not been on investors' minds, said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners.

The Dow opened higher Tuesday following a surge in markets across the globe. China's markets rose after the government said it would support ambitious growth targets. European markets jumped following a surprisingly strong rise in retail sales across the 17-country group that uses the euro. In the U.S., more hopeful news about housing kept the momentum going.

From its March 2009 low to today, gains for the 30-member Dow have been led by American Express, up almost 500 percent from $10.64 to $64.44. Home Depot has jumped almost 300 percent from $18.23 to $70.50, according to data from S&P Dow Jones Indices. Hewlett-Packard is the only stock in the index that is lower than it was four years ago, falling 22 percent from $25.53 to $20.34.

On Tuesday, investors received another piece of positive news on the U.S. economy, a report that U.S. service companies grew in February at the fastest pace in a year, thanks to higher sales and more new orders. The gain suggests higher taxes have yet to slow consumer spending on services.

Home builder PulteGroup rose 45 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $19.85 following news that home prices rose at the fastest pace in almost six years in January, a sign that the housing market is gaining momentum as it nears the spring selling season. Home prices rose 9.7 percent in January from a year ago and had the biggest gain since April 2006, according to data released by CoreLogic

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 12 points, or less than 1 percent, to 1,538, within striking distance of its own record close of 1,565. The Nasdaq composite gained 37 points, or 1.2 percent, to 3,219.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose two basis point to 1.90 percent. Gold rose $3.80, 0.2 percent, to $1,576 and oil advanced 76 cents, to $90.88.

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