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) 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), IBM ( IBM) and Microsoft ( MSFT) were among the big percentage gainers within the Dow after fellow tech bellwether Intel ( INTC) 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), 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) 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) and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) among the Dow's biggest laggards. Only six of the Dow's 30 components ended in the red.

After the bell, American Express ( AXP) 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) 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) 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) 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) 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) 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) to the board.

Shares of Nvidia ( NVDA) 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) 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) 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) 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%.

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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.

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