- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 8, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — Financial companies pushed stock indexes higher Tuesday on signs that large banks soon may raise their dividends.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 145 points, or 1.2 percent, to 12,235 in midday trading. The S&P 500 rose 14, or 1.1 percent, to 1,324. Energy companies were the only group among the S&P index to fall, losing 0.5 percent. The Nasdaq composite rose 27, or 1 percent, to 2,773.

Bank of America Corp. rose 4.2 percent, the most of the 30 stocks that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average, after analysts noted that the bank likely will increase its dividend. Banks slashed their dividends during the 2008 financial crisis to cut costs.

Financial stocks in the S&P 500 index rose 2.3 percent, the most of any of the index’s 10 company groups. American Express Co. gained 3.4 percent, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. gained 2.7 percent.

Falling oil prices also helped stocks move higher. Oil prices dipped 1.1 percent to $104 a barrel after Kuwait’s oil minister said OPEC members are in informal talks about raising oil output as the conflict in Libya continues.

“Rapidly higher-moving oil prices can substantially impact demand,” said Oliver Pursche, president of Gary Goldberg Financial Services. It’s something OPEC members are “very, very much aware of and want to avoid.”

Oil prices have risen 9 percent so far this month. That increase has pushed stocks lower as investors worry that higher gas prices will dampen the economic recovery.

Bond prices fell, pushing yields higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.54 percent from 3.51 percent late Monday.

Brown-Forman Corp. rose 6 percent after the liquor company said its net income rose 30 percent in the latest quarter thanks to growing international sales and a strong performance by its flagship Jack Daniel’s brand.

Urban Outfitters Inc. fell 15 percent after the retailer’s earnings missed Wall Street’s expectations because of higher expenses.

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