NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) - Th

e Dow Jones Industrial Average

finished within striking distance of 12,000 Monday, fueled by a rally in materials stocks on dollar weakness and a bounce in tech following

Intel's

(INTC) - Get Report

dividend and buyback announcement.

The blue-chip index, which has risen for eight straight weeks, surged 109 points, or 0.9%, to close at 11,980, just shy of its session-high of 11,983. The

S&P 500

rose 7 points, or 0.6%, to finish at 1291, and the

Nasdaq Composite

ramped up 28 points, or 1%, to close at 2717.

Cisco Systems

(CSCO) - Get Report

,

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

were among the big percentage gainers within the Dow after

fellow tech bellwether

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

raised its quarterly dividend to 18.12 cents a share and authorized another $10 billion in its share buyback program. Intel was up 1.4% to $21.12, while shares of both IBM and Cisco tacked on over 2% each.

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

, however, was the Dow's best performer, gaining more than 4%, as a weaker U.S. dollar contributed to gains seen across the basic materials sector.

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Report

stood out as well, advancing nearly 2%.

The dollar weakened against a basket of currencies as the dollar index slipped 0.2%.

Financials were among the day's weakest performers with

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

and

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get Report

among the Dow's biggest laggards. Only six of the Dow's 30 components ended in the red.

After the bell,

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

said fourth quarter profits rose 47% to $1.1 billion, or 88 cents per share. Analysts were expecting 94 cents. The stock was down 1.3% in extended trading.

Volume totaled 956 million on the

New York Stock Exchange

while more than 1.8 billion shares changed hands on the Nasdaq. Market breadth was positive with 68% of shares listed on the Big board closing higher, while 29% lost ground.

Jay Suskind, senior vice president at Duncan Williams, attributed the day's gains to the good results so far this earnings season. He also noted that comments about future business conditions indicate there are few major roadblocks to growth, a sentiment that has shown itself in moderately improving economic numbers.

"The aggregate mood of the market is that things are improving. The market is finally trading on fundamentals," Suskind said. "If you look at where the market is and how it's been trading, it's probably realistic that it could move higher."

Stocks were strong overseas as well, although news of a terrorist attack at Moscow shook the Russian stock market. A

blast from a suicide bomber in Moscow's Domodedovo airport killed at least 31 people and injured 100, according to a

Reuters

report that cited preliminary information from Interfax News Agency. The Dow Jones Russia Titans Index was down 1.5%.

In Monday's earnings news,

McDonald's

(MCD) - Get Report

topped analysts' earnings estimates by a penny with in-line sales. The stock was up 0.5% at $75.38.

Shares of

Halliburton

rose 0.9% to $39.55

(HAL) - Get Report

after the company

reported fourth-quarter earnings of 68 cents a share on sales of $5.2 billion. Analysts had projected a profit of 63 cents a share on sales of $4.87 billion.

A spate of deals news also boosted sentiment. Shares of

Rock-Tenn

(RKT) - Get Report

spiked 3.7% to $59.31 after the

packaging products company said it plans to buy

Smurfit-Store Container

(SSCC)

for $3.5 billion. Smurfit's stock jumped 27.2% at $35.01.

Also

Novartis

(NVS) - Get Report

agreed to acquire

Genoptix

(GXDX)

for $25 a share, or $470 million. Shares of Novartis added 1.9% to close at $57.50 while Genoptix's stock was ahead by 25.8% at $24.86.

Meantime, shares of

RadioShack

(RSH)

finished down 11.3% at $15.62 after the company said its Chairman and CEO Julian Day plans to retire in May. The company also gave a below-consensus earnings forecast for the fourth quarter, saying it expects a profit of 50 to 54 cents a share on sales that rose 4% to $1.37 billion. According to

Briefing.com

, analysts had been expecting RadioShack to deliver earnings of 67 cents a share when it reports on Feb. 22.

Shares of

J.C. Penney

(JCP) - Get Report

climbed 7.2% to $32.52 after the department store operator unveiled plans to close underperforming stores and named activist investor

William Ackman

and Steven Roth of

Vornado Realty Trust

(VNO) - Get Report

to the board.

Shares of

Nvidia

(NVDA) - Get Report

shot up 11% to $24.73 after a

Barron's

article argued that the stock could rise 80% in 2011.

After the bell,

Amgen

(AMGN) - Get Report

said its fourth-quarter profits rose 10% year-over-year to $1.02 billion, or $1.08 per share, from $931 million, or 92 cents per share. The stock was down 0.2% in after-market hours.

VMWare

(VMW) - Get Report

blew past Wall Street's fourth-quarter estimates after market close on Monday, reporting revenue of $836 million and earnings of 46 cents a share, up from $608 million and 31 cents a share in the same period last year.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had projected VMWare to post earnings of 44 cents a share and revenue of $803.58 million. The stock was up 1% in extended trading.

AIG

(AIG) - Get Report

said late Monday that doctors have given CEO Robert Benmosche an encouraging prognosis for his cancer treatment and that he expected to remain president and CEO over the next 12 to 18 months.

There were no economic releases scheduled for Monday's session.

In commodity markets, the March crude oil contract shed $1.24 to settle at $87.87 a barrel. The February gold contract was up by $3.5 to trade at $1,344.50 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose 3/32, diluting the yield to 3.397%.

.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.3% while Japan's Nikkei rose 0.7%. London's FTSE added 0.8% and the DAX in Frankfurt finished 0.08% higher.

--Written by Melinda Peer and Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York

.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.