Wall Street traded higher on Tuesday with the Dow Jones average hitting 9,700 for the first time since Oct. 6 on positive economic data and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech.
The U.S. Commerce Department said that sales at U.S. retailers surged 2.7 percent in August, the most in three years, led by a jump in auto purchases as consumers took advantage of the government's "cash for clunkers" program. The reading exceeded the 2-percent increase economists had expected.
Bernanke's assessment of the economy was also welcomed by investors. More and more data showed that the world's largest economy is pulling out of the worst recession since the 1930s, said Bernanke on Tuesday, adding that the country's economic recession is very likely over at this point.
Investors shrugged off news that wholesale prices rose 1.7 percent last month, and disappointing earnings from two major retailers, Best Buy Co. and Kroger Co., also failed to push the stock market off course.
The Dow Jones average rose 56.61, or 0.6 percent, to 9,683.41, its highest close this year. The S&P 500 index rose 3.29, or 0.3 percent, to 1,052.63, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 10.86,or 0.5 percent, to 2,102.64.