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Stocks close higher, Dow ends above 12,000

The Dow gained about 123 points, and the Nasdaq gained about 39 points, led by gains in energy

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday, June 14, 2011. Stocks closed high on Tuesday, with the Dow and Nasdaq seeing their best gains since mid-April.

Richard Drew / AP

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By JeeYeon Park, CNBC.com

Stocks slipped slightly from session highs but still closed broadly higher Tuesday, led by gains in the energy sector, following a handful of economic news that helped boost market confidence.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 123.14 points, or 1.03 percent, to finish at 12,076.11.

Home Depot and Caterpillar led the blue-chip gainers, while BofA lagged.

The S&P 500 rose 16.04 points, or 1.26 percent, to close at 1287.87, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq climbed 39.03 points, or 1.48 percent, to 2,678.72. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, tumbled more than 6 percent to trade around 18.

The Dow and Nasdaq are seeing their best gains since Apr. 20, while the S&P is having its best day since Mar. 21.

All key S&P sectors were in the green, led by growth plays energy, industrials and materials.

“The rally has a lot to do with technicals,” according to Alan Valdes, director of floor operations at DME Securities, noting that markets tend to see a bounce ahead of options expiration.

Bernanke warned that a failure to lift the government's debt ceiling risks a loss of confidence in America's creditworthiness, saying the U.S. could lose its AAA credit rating and the greenback's status as the reserve currency could be damaged.

"Even a short suspension of payments on principal or interest on the Treasury's debt obligations could cause severe disruptions in financial markets and the payments system," Bernanke said at an event sponsored by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Stocks tumbled last week after Bernanke acknowledged the economic slowdown during a banking conference in Atlanta.

Oil prices gained as U.S. light, sweet crude rose $2.07 to settle at $99.37 barrel, while London Brent crude climbed $1.06 to settle at $120.16. Gold climbed $8.80 to settle at $1,523.80 an ounce.

On the tech front, Google advanced after the search-engine giant unveiled new features to accelerate search results and simplify the process for smartphone users.

Intel and Entropic Communications rose after the two tech firms announced a partnership to develop an advanced video gateway.

Apple agreed to settle a long-running row over patents with Nokia, which would give a boost to the faltering mobile-phone maker's earnings.

Hewlett-Packard announced the departure of two senior officers Monday afternoon and said a veteran executive was moving to its board amid another management shakeup under its new CEO Leo Apotheker.

Most big financials pared earlier gains, including BofA and Citigroup.

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