Investors have been pulling back a bit after a strong start to the year. All three indexes are up between 6% and 8%, with the Dow just 1.2% shy of its all-time high, hit in October 2007. The S&P 500 is less than 3% below its record high, also set in October 2007.
Driving the gains Tuesday were shares of OfficeMax (Fortune 500) and , Office Depot (Fortune 500), which both rallied after media reports said the companies were in advanced merger talks, citing unnamed sources. , Staples (Fortune 500), the other major office supplies retailer, gained about 13%. ,
The talks come as mergers and acquisitions have picked up. Just last week, US Airways (Fortune 500) announced a merger with American Airlines parent , AMR (Fortune 500); Warren Buffett's , Berkshire Hathaway (Fortune 500) announced it was buying ketchup maker , Heinz (Fortune 500); and , Comcast ( announced a $16.7 billion deal for the 49% of NBC Universal that was still owned by )General Electric (Fortune 500). ,
After the closing bell, Dell (Fortune 500) reported earnings and revenue that fell from a year ago but topped analyst expectations. Controversial nutritional supplements company , Herbalife ( also announced better-than-expected earnings and sales figures. The company also boosted its outlook for 2013 and issued a 30 cents per share quarterly dividend. )
A hearing began Tuesday in David Einhorn's lawsuit against Apple (Fortune 500). Einhorn's hedge fund, Greenlight Capital, has accused Apple of hoarding billions in cash and wants a judge to block a "bundled" shareholder vote, scheduled for Feb. 27. Einhorn wants shareholders to vote separately on an Apple proposal that would limit the company's ability to issue high-yielding preferred stock. ,
Apple CEO Tim Cook has called the lawsuit a "silly sideshow."
Tuesday's homebuilders confidence report did little to soothe investor's nerves about the wobbly economic recovery. The National Association of Home Builders' Housing Market index fell for the first time in nearly a year in February. Economists were expecting the index to edge up to a six-year high.
Separate reports on housing starts and building permits will follow on Wednesday, and data on existing home sales will be released Thursday.
European markets finished with solid gains, lifted by a stronger-than-expected reading from the latest ZEW survey of German investor sentiment.
Gas prices rose for the 33rd day in a row. Economists are monitoring rising gas prices to gauge whether they will take a bite out of consumer spending in February.
Nationwide, a gallon of unleaded gasoline averaged $3.748 Tuesday, according to AAA. Gas prices have risen about 33 cents, or nearly 10%, since the beginning of February.
The dollar lost ground versus the euro and the Japanese yen but rose versus the British pound.
The price on the 10-year Treasury fell slightly, pushing the yield up to 2.03% from 2% late Friday.
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