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Wal-Mart helps Wall Street's record-setting rally march on

A street sign for Wall Street is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/Files

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose to fresh record highs on Tuesday, boosted by strong earnings reports from Wal-Mart and Home Depot and continued optimism about the economic agenda of President Donald Trump.

Wal-Mart's (WMT.N) shares were the top gainer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, rising 3 percent after the world's largest retailer reported higher-than-expected U.S. sales.

Home Depot (HD.N) shares gained 1.4 percent after the home improvement retailer reported higher-than-expected quarterly profit and sales, boosted by a strong U.S. housing market.

In broad gains that saw all 11 major S&P 500 sectors close higher, nearly one in every five stocks on the benchmark index hit a new 52-week high.

The S&P has climbed 10.6 percent since Trump's Nov. 8 election, sparked by the promise of tax reforms, reduced regulations and increased infrastructure spending.

"There was a period last week, I think, where people were getting a little worried about whether the administration was getting sidetracked," said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.

"A couple days later, those worries seem to have temporarily subsided," Meckler said. "If their platform can go through, I think a lot of investors see it as very positive for stock valuations."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) rose 118.95 points, or 0.58 percent, to 20,743, the S&P 500 (.SPX) gained 14.22 points, or 0.60 percent, to 2,365.38 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) added 27.37 points, or 0.47 percent, to 5,865.95.

All three indexes tallied closing all-time highs, with the Dow notching a record for an eighth straight session.

The S&P is trading at 17.8 times earnings estimates for the next 12 months, well above the long-term average of 15 times, according to Thomson Reuters Datastream.

Overall profit for S&P 500 companies is estimated to have risen 7.5 percent in the fourth quarter, Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S said in a report last Friday.

"You’ve had an earnings season that has actually been better than expected, and I think that’s what people are looking for, they were looking for something to justify where stock prices were," said Peter Costa, president of trading firm Empire Executions.

In other corporate news, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (PLKI.O) jumped 19.1 percent after Burger King owner Restaurant Brands (QSR.TO) agreed to acquire the restaurant chain for $1.8 billion.

More than 6.7 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, similar to the 6.8 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.57-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.38-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 93 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 223 new highs and 26 new lows.


(Additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Nick Zieminski)