Nasdaq Ends At Highest Level In 12-Years

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Stock exchange boardNEW YORK. — (CNN) Technology shares sparked a broad rally that boosted the S&P 500 to a record closing high and fueled the tech-heavy Nasdaq to its highest level in more than 12 years.

Apple (AAPLFortune 500) was among the top gainers in the Nasdaq-100 and in theS&P 500 following rumors that the iPhone 5S could hit shelves as early as this summer, though the widespread expectation is for a fall release.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQFortune 500), IBM (IBM,Fortune 500) and Microsoft (MSFTFortune 500)were the biggest winners in the Dow Jones industrial average, which jumped more than 100 points, or 0.7%.

U.S. stocks are on track to end April with gains this week. That would mark the fourth straight positive month this year.

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Stocks have been in the black all day, as investors were encouraged by a much better-than-expected report on pending home sales. Sales jumped 1.5% in March versus the expected 0.1% gain.

Investors were already in a buying mood following the formation of a new Italian government over the weekend, which ended weeks of political deadlock and uncertainty in a country mired by recession.

Italian stocks rallied more than 2% after Enrico Letta was sworn in as Italy’s prime minister. The news also pushed Italian bond yields to their lowest levels in more than two years. (More on European markets).

Expectations for a further rate cut from the European Central Bank and continued monetary support from the Federal Reserve later this week were also lending support.

“The ECB meeting may be the most interesting event this week,” wrote Marc Chandler, strategist for Brown Brothers Harriman, adding that the ECB indicated earlier this month that if economic data worsened, it was prepared to cut interest rates.

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