How This Unloved Bull Market Continues to Smash Records

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A new record high. Then more chatter about a coming correction. Stocks dip ever so slightly, then recover, and presto, yet another record high. And then we repeat.

That's how this bull market has moved over the past few weeks; for every fresh record, triple the fears of an eventual market correction. Even now, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average flirting with a 17,000 level and the S&P 500 spiking intraday and closing in on 2,000, the drivers behind historic gains remain murky and market confidence hesitant. Yet the market continues to creep higher. 

The S&P 500 has gained 6.8% in 2014 after advancing 30% last year. On Tuesday, the U.S. benchmark closed at 1,973.32.

On this day, at least, the momentum-drivers were somewhat clear: U.S. auto sales gained at a healthy clip, fears of sluggishness in the Chinese economy were partially alleviated as manufacturing expanded for the first time in six months, while U.S. manufacturing booked its 13th consecutive month of expansion, albeit at a slower pace than previously.

Those dinosaurs of industry -- automobiles and manufacturing -- have carried these markets to new heights recently and again on Tuesday, not the slippery high-momentum plays which have moved the market this year with little more than a cough.

The economic snapshot those provided were enough to give small-caps, some of the most beaten-up stocks of the last quarter, a well-deserved boost. The Russell 2000 surged 1.1% to 1,205.94, settling slightly lower after a record intra-day high of 1,213.55.

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