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European Markets

Markets are called to open flat this morning.

 

US Markets

U.S. stocks finished at their highest levels in three years Tuesday afternoon, as investors cheered another batch of earnings results and a better-than-expected report on consumer confidence.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) gained 115 points, or 0.9%, the S&P 500 (SPX) rose 12 points, or 0.9%, and the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) added 22 points, or 0.8%. Both the Dow and the S&P climbed to their highest levels since June 2008, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed at its highest mark since October 2007.

“Corporate earnings have been strong and are a good sign of global growth,” said Dave Rovelli, managing director of U.S. equity trading at Cancaccord Adams.

So far, a third of the S&P 500 companies have opened their books, and 75% of them have beat expectations, according to Thomson Reuters. Earning are up almost 19%, while sales have climbed nearly 3%.

Rovelli said upbeat results from shipping company UPS (UPS, Fortune 500) are particularly compelling given the company’s reach into the global economy. Shares of UPS rose 0.9% Tuesday after the company posted a 66% rise in profit and raised its full-year earnings outlook.

The busy week in earnings news also brought the strongest first quarter in 13 years from Ford Motor (F, Fortune 500), pushing the automakers’s shares up 0.8%.

 

Asian Markets

Asian stocks rose, with the regional benchmark index heading for its highest close in almost two months, after a report showed U.S. consumer confidence increased.

 

Events this Week

Wednesday: The earnings onslaught continues, with Boeing (BA, Fortune 500) and BP (BP) expected to announce results.

In the afternoon, investors will briefly turn their attention to the economy, as tight-lipped Bernanke holds his first of what will become four regular press conferences a year. The speech and question-and-answer session will follow the Fed’s two-day meeting on monetary policy.

Reports on durable orders are also out on Wednesday.

After the bell, earnings from Aflac (AFL, Fortune 500), Baidu (BIDU), and Starbucks will take the stage.

Thursday: Before the start of trading, Exxon Mobil (XOM, Fortune 500) is expected to deliver a $10 billion profit, up 60% from a year ago, on revenue of $115 million.

PepsiCo (PEP, Fortune 500), Procter & Gamble and Sprint Nextel (S, Fortune 500) will reveal their quarterly earnings in the morning too.

Also on tap: The Department of Commerce will release its initial reading on economic growth during the first three months of the year. Economists expect the economy expanded at a rate of 1.7% during the first quarter.

Weekly initial claims data is due as well. Claims are expected to fall back to 390,000 in the latest week, after hovering above the key 400,000 level for two consecutive weeks.

Later in the morning, a report from the National Association of Realtors is expected to show a 1.5% rise in pending home sales for the month of March.

After the closing bell, analysts expect Microsoft will post a quarterly profit of $4.8 billion, up 20% from a year ago, on sales of $16.2 billion.

Friday: Dow components Caterpillar (CAT, Fortune 500), Chevron (CVX, Fortune 500) and Merck (MRK, Fortune 500) are all on tap to delivery quarterly results prior to Friday’s opening bell.

Investors will also digest data on personal income and spending before the start of trading.

Shortly after the bell, investors will get the April reading of Chicago PMI, a regional manufacturing index, and the final April reading on consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan.