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Stocks Climb Higher on Economic Outlook

Tickers in this article: NFLX PLCE RFMD SONC ZIOP ^DJI ^GSPC ^IXIC

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks climbed higher, with the S&P 500 closing less than 2 points from its all-time high, Tuesday after a jump in U.S. durable goods orders and home prices bolstered the outlook for the world's largest economy.

Not even a tepid report from the Conference Board could slow the market. The board's Consumer Confidence Index fell more than expected to 59.7 in March from 69 in February; economists expected a dip to 68 this month.

The S&P 500 was rising 0.7% to 1,562.95. The index reached an all-time high of 1,565 in October 2007.

Monsanto , a provider of agricultural products, closed among the S&P's top performers on Tuesday after the company reached a deal with DuPont to drop antitrust and soybean patent lawsuits against each other. The companies said they would enter into a series of technology licensing agreements to expand the range of genetically modified seed products they can offer farmers. Shares of Monsanto popped 4.4% to $103.79.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 0.77% to 14,559.65. The Nasdaq climbed 0.53% to 3,252.48.

The Census Bureau reported that durable goods orders rose 5.7% in February after falling by an upwardly revised 3.8% in January; economists were looking for durable goods orders to rise 3.8% in February. Commercial aircraft orders rose, pointing to an uptrend in manufacturing activity and capital spending.

"The guts of the report seem sufficiently strong to buoy the stock market in the face of a fragile situation on the continent," Andrew Wilkinson, the New York City-based chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. said in a note. There's "little evidence arguing against a still robust economic recovery in the world's largest economy," he added.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index showed a year-on-year increase of 8.1% in January, making it the best read on this indicator since the start of the housing downturn in mid-2006 and exceeding expectations for a 7.9% rise, after advancing 6.8% in December, confirming the positive outlook for home prices this year that for homeowners may offset the pain of higher payroll taxes.

RF Micro Devices was rallying 6.9% to $5.25 after the maker of radio frequency and small semiconductor products was upgraded to outperform from perform at Oppenheimer by analyst Rick Schafer due to evidence of increasing demand for its products from the high-tech industry. Samsung for instance is using them more heavily in the Galaxy S 4 smartphone than in the Galaxy S 3, according to Schafer.

Netflix tacked on 5.5% to $190.70 after Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves raised his price target on the movie streaming company to $225 from $160 after increasing his profit margin and subscriber-growth outlook for the company. He said that Netflix has the capacity to buy and develop top, original content with mass appeal through its access to a wealth of data about its audience.