NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- General Electric ( GE) hit a new 52-week high Tuesday, amid a strong trade in industrial names.

General Electric shares touched $18.45 shortly after the open and have mostly held those gains, following a slight dip in late morning trading. Volume by early afternoon was more than 81 million, ahead of the stock's trailing three-month daily average of 78 million. The stock was recently up 1.4% to $18.32.

General Electric's stock has rallied during most of the month spurred in part by comments from CFO Keith Sherin at a March 16 industry conference hosted by Goldman Sachs.

Sherin told the audience General Electric would begin growing its dividend in 2011 as it builds up its cash position both at the parent and in its GE Capital unit.

In addition to a positive research report from JPMorgan early in the month, General Electric got a surprising upgrade to neutral from sell from Sterne Agee analyst Nick Heymann. Heymann had been the only major analyst with a sell rating on the industrial and financial giant.

In changing his outlook, Heymann pointed to improving metrics at several businesses, including General Electric's portfolio of U.K. mortgages, which account for $21 billion out of a total $59 billion in mortgage exposure.

Indeed, real estate stocks in general have performed well of late, with the Dow Jones U.S. Real Estate ETF ( IYR) up more than 18% since Feb. 9. Financial stocks have not been far behind, with the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF ( XLF) setting a new 52 week high last week.

Industrial stocks have been the real standouts in recent weeks, however. The Industrial SPDR ETF ( XLI) also hit a new 52-week high on Tuesday. General Electric is the largest holding in the ETF, accounting for a 12.45% allocation. But Emerson Electric ( EMR) and General Dynamics ( GD), two other stocks in the Industrial ETF's top 10 holdings, also hit new 52-week highs Tuesday.

Boeing ( BA), another top holding of the industrial ETF, hit a 52-week high Friday before selling off in late trading, but was up again Monday on a pair of bullish analyst reports. One of those reports, from Barclays Capital, noted better-than-expected air traffic and production rates, both trends that should benefit General Electric's aviation business.

General Electric still has wood to chop, however, before $3 billion in warrants acquired by Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.A) Chairman Warren Buffett in the darkest days of the crisis, are in the money. Buffett's warrants, which he received in October 2008, allow him to buy $3 billion worth of GE shares at $22.25.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.