By Nick Godt, MarketWatch
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks closed at sharply higher levels, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average to a record close, as investors shrugged off recent jitters about global markets and commodities, leaving room for the market to focus on earnings and the technology sector.
Sustained enthusiasm for tech shares, meanwhile, also boosted the Nasdaq Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +0.92% to a six-year high.
Emerging markets and commodities have been rocked over the past week amid concerns about slowing global growth and nationalizations in Venezuela.
"But money is not leaving the market and, if anything, it's finding better opportunities," said Barry Hyman, market strategist at EKN Financial, referring to the recent trend of money shifting away from the stumbling energy sector and into tech shares.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.13% gained 72 points to close at 12,514, with 25 of its 30 components posting gains. Tech shares were amongst the biggest contributors to the advance of the blue-chip average, amid strong gains for the likes of Intel Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203649727/composite INTC +0.85% , Hewlett-Packard Co. /zigman2/quotes/203461582/composite HPQ +0.09% and Microsoft Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT +0.64% .
Altria Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/208895754/composite MO -0.02% also lent support, rising 0.5% after UBS lifted its price target on the stock.
Unlike the past few sessions, the market was able to shrug off crude oil prices, which continued to tumble. Crude for February delivery fell $2.14 to close at $51.88 a barrel, near a 20-month low. See Futures Movers. Still, Exxon Mobil Corp. /zigman2/quotes/204455864/composite XOM -1.52% was one of four stocks finishing lower on the Dow, losing 1 cent.
The S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.24% gained nearly 9 points to close at 1,423, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq rallied 25 points, or 1%, to 2,484, just off a new six-year high of 2,489.
Investors continued to show interest in the tech sector, where Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.48% sparked renewed enthusiasm on Tuesday with the launch of a new multimedia device, the iPhone.
However, Apple -- whose stock had surged 13% since the iPhone launch on Tuesday -- fell back 1.2% after news that Cisco launched a lawsuit against the company. Cisco is alleging that it owns the rights to the name iPhone and says it has owned the trademark since 2000. See full story.
Google Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG +1.23% gained 2.1%, rising above the $500 mark for the first time since November, after Goldman Sachs raised its price target on the stock. Amazon.com /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +0.32% rose 0.6% while Yahoo Inc. advanced 1.7%.
Tech shares have been the favored destination of money leaving a fast-falling energy sector. After being pummeled by weakness in commodities-related shares earlier this week, the market was able to rally late on Wednesday, said Michael Malone, trading analyst at Cowen & Co.
"Yesterday's action was really positive," he said. "First a sell-off and then we rallied into the close. We're seeing a continuation of that today."
In the broad market for equities, trading volume was 1.6 billion on the New York Stock Exchange and 2.4 billion on the Nasdaq.