NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Healthcare stocks led U.S. stock markets higher on Tuesday, buoyed by a better-than-expected increase in U.S. factory orders in February and gains by European markets. The S&P 500 closed 0.52% higher at 1,570.25, led by Humana ( HUM) DaVita Healthcare Partners ( DVA) UnitedHealth Group ( UNH) and Aetna ( AET). The S&P is up 10% in 2013. U.S. factory orders increased 3% in February on greater demand for cars and aircraft. The uptick followed a 2% decline in January. The Dow closed up 0.61% to 14,662.01 while the Nasdaq finished ahead by 0.48% to 3,254.86. "Clearly, stocks have had an exceptional run to start the year and handily outperformed bonds," Russ Koesterich, BlackRock's global chief investment strategist, said in a weekly investment note late Monday. "We certainly don't expect this pace of gains to continue, but even after the first-quarter rally, stocks still look inexpensive compared to fixed income alternatives, so we would continue to advocate overweight positions in equities." Health care stocks rose on Tuesday, a day after the U.S. government reversed a proposal to reduce a key Medicare payment rate. DaVita HealthCare Partners led the group, jumping 6.1% to $127.20.09. UnitedHealth advanced 4.7% to $61.74. The benchmark 10-year Treasury was falling 8/32, lifting the yield to 1.863%. The dollar was up 0.24%, according to the
U.S. dollar index. May crude oil futures added 12 cents to settle at $97.19 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. BGC Partners ( BGCP) shares soared 48.6% to $5.72 after Nasdaq OMX Group ( NDAQ) agreed to buy eSpeed from BGC for $750 million in cash. ESpeed is an electronic service for trading U.S Treasury notes and bonds. The acquisition is expected to be completed in the middle of 2013. U.S. automakers, including Ford ( F) and General Motors ( GM), are scheduled to release auto sales for March later today. Ford shares rose 0.85% to $13.01 and GM shares were up 0.47% to $27.93. The FTSE in London closed higher by 1.23% on Tuesday and the DAX in Germany added 1.9% on modest bailout terms for Cyprus and a better-than-expected eurozone manufacturing sector report. The S&P broke new ground last week reaching 1,569.19 to trump its former, pre-credit-crisis record of 1,565.15 reached on Oct. 9, 2007. This came shortly after the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke its 2007 record high on March 5. The S&P's next milestone is its all-time intraday high of 1,576.09, set on Oct. 11, 2007. Written by Andrea Tse and Joe Deaux in New York >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.