NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks finished solidly higher Tuesday as above-consensus earnings reports helped investors move past the latest evidence that more monetary stimulus is unlikely from Federal Reserve this summer.

After initially swooning in the wake of Chairman Ben Bernanke's downbeat appearance before Congress, all three major U.S. equity averages rallied into positive territory with defensive stocks leading the way.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 78 points, or 0.61%, to close at 12,805, bouncing 160 points off a session-low of 12,645. The blue-chip index is now up 4.81% so far in 2012, rising in two of the past three trading days.

The S&P 500 advanced 10 points, or 0.74%, to finish at 1364. The Nasdaq tacked on 13 points, or 0.45%, to settle at 2910.

"It seemed like some of the big companies did pretty well," said Joe Bell, senior equity analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research. "Expectations are relatively low. They have come in quite a bit from beginning of the year. That kind of lowers the bar."

Within the Dow, 26 of the index's 30 components gained ground, led by Walt Disney ( DIS), Pfizer ( PFE) , Merck ( MRK) and Coca-Cola ( KO).

Shares of Coca-Cola rose 1.6% after the beverage giant posted second-quarter earnings of $1.22 a share on revenue of $13.09 billion, topping the average analysts' forecast for a profit of $1.19 a share on revenue of $12.98 billion.

Disney's stock jumped 3.1% after the company was upgraded to buy from neutral at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The firm, which bumped its 12-month price target up to $58 from $45 as well, cited a favorable risk/reward profile for the upgrade.

The blue-chip losers were Alcoa ( AA), Home Depot ( HD), IBM ( IBM) and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM).

Health care, energy and conglomerates -- all defensive sectors -- saw the strongest buying action in the broad market.

Tuesday was the first big earnings day of second-quarter reporting season and most reports came in better than expected. Goldman Sachs ( GS), for example, reported second-quarter earnings of $1.78 a share on revenue of $6.63 billion, easily surpassing Wall Street's view for a profit of $1.16 a share on revenue of $6.28 billion. Shares finished up 0.32%.

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