NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The major U.S. equity averages soared Tuesday, going into rally mode as Americans headed to the voting booths across the country to decide between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney for president.

Investors also kept a close eye on the U.S. congressional races, as the results will go a long way toward determining how the federal government ultimately handles the looming fiscal cliff. With many expecting Congress to remain divided, economists at Bank of America are anticipating "a prolonged negotiation process" on the issue.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared 133 points, or 1.02%, to close at 13,246. The blue-chip index rose for a second straight session and is now up 8.42% so far in 2012.

Breadth was extremely positive, with winners outpacing losers, 28 to 2. The biggest percentage gainers were Boeing ( BA), Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), UnitedHealth Group ( UNH) and United Technologies ( UTX).

Intel ( INTC) and AT&T ( T) were the only blue chips in the red.

The S&P 500 finished up a little more than 11 points, or 0.79%, at 1428. The Nasdaq rose in excess of 12 points, or 0.41%, to settle at 3012.

The strongest sectors in the broad market were basic materials, capital goods, conglomerates and energy.

Advancers ran ahead of decliners by roughly 2-to-1 ratios on both the Big Board and the Nasdaq. Volume totaled 3.28 billion on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.78 billion on the Nasdaq.

"Equity markets in presidential election years do not follow a consistent pattern like markets in midterm election years. However, median equity performance in the weeks following very competitive elections slightly outpaces performance following less competitive contests," Jan Hatzius, chief U.S. economist at Goldman Sachs, said in a research note. "That said, this election is unusual in that it will be immediately followed by debate on the fiscal cliff, and thus resolution of the election will reduce, but not eliminate, policy uncertainty."

Hatzius cautioned that "given that pre-election polling indicates that, at least at a national level, this election is closer than most others over the last 50 years, there is a clear risk that the results may not be known by the end of Nov. 6."

The most recent polls suggest that President Barack Obama has a slight lead over Republican candidate Mitt Romney in major swing states.

"A Democrat victory in the Senate will mean another divided Congress that may once again descend into partisan bickering with little or nothing to show for it. If the sun shines on the Republicans, however, the GOP will control Congress and be able to usher through their legislative favorites," noted noted Doug Cote, chief market strategist at ING Investment Management.

The FTSE 100 in London closed up 0.79%, while the DAX in Germany gained 0.70%, even as concerns about the eurozone flared up again with anxiety over Greece's ability to access more financial aid.

Japan's Nikkei average finished down 0.36% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed down 0.28%, as China got ready for a once in a decade leadership shuffle set to begin on Thursday.

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