NEW YORK — Stocks resumed their slow but steady climb Tuesday as Greece appeared close to announcing a deal with creditors to cut its debt. The Dow Jones industrial average ended at its highest level since May 2008.
Stock indexes rose after a report that Greece and the investors who bought its government bonds were close to a deal to reduce what Greece owes. Greece's crushing debt has unnerved financial markets around the world for two years.
"Just some kind of optimism overseas is going to be positive, considering many didn't think anything was going to come to fruition," said Stephen J. Carl, head equity trader at The Williams Capital Group.
A report that job openings soared to the highest level in almost three years in December also helped the U.S. market.
The Dow rose 33.07 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 12,878.20. It has not closed higher since May 19, 2008, four months before the financial crisis. The Dow is roughly a 10 percent rally away from its all-time high.
The average fell 17 points to start the week. On Tuesday, it was down as much as 62 points in the first half-hour of trading.
McDonald's rose 1.4 percent, best among the 30 stocks in the Dow, to $100.91, close to its 52-week high. Coca-Cola rose 0.8 percent after it reported better profits than analysts were expecting.
In other trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 gained 2.72 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,347.05. The Nasdaq composite rose 2.09 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 2,904.08. The Nasdaq is about a point shy of its best close since December 2000.
The jump in U.S. job openings was the latest sign that the job market is improving. The Dow climbed 156 points Friday after the government reported that the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent in January, the lowest in almost three years.
Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial Group in Westport, Conn., said that while investors are becoming more optimistic about the economy, there are still signs that they're allocating money cautiously.
The utilities sector was the best performer in the S&P 500, indicating that investors are hanging on to stocks they consider to be relatively safe.
In the bond market, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.98 percent from 1.90 percent late Monday. Demand for bonds waned as investors became more confident that Greece would reach a deal. A relatively weak auction of three-year Treasury notes also pushed bond prices lower.
The euro rose to a two-year high against the dollar as worries eased about Greece's and Europe's debt problems. The euro rose 1.4 cents against the dollar to $1.33 in afternoon trading.
Among the stocks making big moves in the U.S.:
• Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell and KFC, jumped 2.6 percent. Its income surged 30 percent in the fourth quarter because of strong growth overseas and a turnaround in its Pizza Hut business in the U.S.
• Emerson Electric Co. lost 2.7 percent after the manufacturing and technology company said its quarterly profit fell 23 percent. It said costs rose and sales took a hit from flooding in Thailand.
• Becton, Dickinson & Co., a medical technology company, fell 3.8 percent. Its profit fell 17 percent in the latest quarter because of higher costs for raw materials and other expenses. The company also cut its 2012 earnings forecast.