The Dow Jones industrial average finally managed to close above 13,000 Tuesday, a level it has broken through repeatedly in the past week during the trading day.

The Dow hasn't closed above that level since May 2008, before the financial crisis and recession.

In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index gained 40.09 points, closing at 12,740.47.

The Dow gained 6.5 per cent in the first two months of the year, but has traded sideways ever since. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 9.1 per cent in that time and the Nasdaq 14.6 per cent.

"Two months ago, we were talking about a double-dip recession; now consumer confidence is growing," Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist with Schaeffer's Investment Research said. "A major milestone like 13,000 wakes up a lot of investors who have missed a lot of this rally."

The Dow gained 23.61 points to close at 13,005.12 The S&P 500 index rose 4.59 points to 1,372.18. The Nasdaq composite index added 20.60 points to 2,986.76.

U.S. markets advanced after data showed that U.S. consumer confidence in February rose dramatically to the highest level since a year ago.

Dow peaked in Oct. 2007

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index now stands at 70.8, up from a revised 61.5 in January, helped by consumers' improving assessment of the job market. Analysts had expected a reading of 63.

"I've been bullish on the U.S. since mid-2011," said Sadiq Adatia, chief investment officer at Sun Life Global Investments.

"Housing values have been somewhat stabilized and the consumer has been feeling more confident because the unemployment number has actually been decreasing, so consumers say, my housing value has stabilized, they're getting some job growth, the economy seems to be picking up some traction — hey, things are not too bad."

The Canadian dollar was up 0.38 of a cent to 100.46 cents US.

Oil for April delivery fell $2.01 to $106.55 US a barrel and April gold gained $13.50 to settle at $1,788.40 US an ounce.

The Dow first cracked 13,000 on April 25, 2007, when the U.S. unemployment rate was 4.5 per cent, far below today's 8.3 per cent, and the economy was growing at a relatively healthy clip.

From there, it was a quick ride to the Dow's all-time high. The average crossed 14,000 in July 2007, then peaked at 14,164.53 on Oct. 9, 2007. Concerns about weak corporate earnings and tighter credit were already haunting the market, though.

The trip back down to 13,000 was less pleasant. It took little more than a month. Ten months later came the fall of Lehman Brothers investment bank and the financial meltdown. The Dow hit bottom on March 9, 2009, at 6,547.05.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press