The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 15,000 for the first time ever on Tuesday as the world’s best known stock market measure extended its recent rally.

The Dow closed at 15,056.20, up 87.31 points on the day. The Dow first crossed the 15,000 threshold in intraday trading last Friday but slipped below that level by the close. The gains followed last week’s better-than-expected U.S. employment report. 

So far this year, the Dow Jones industrial average has risen an impressive 14.8 per cent. It has doubled since late 2008, when the recession was at its worst.

Other U.S. stock measures are also performing well. The broader S&P 500 index has jumped more than 13 per cent year-to-date and has technically entered bull market territory, as it’s risen 20 per cent from its November lows.

Strong corporate earnings have helped to power U.S. stocks higher. Earnings reports from the more than 400 members of the S&P 500 which have reported first-quarter results show that two-thirds of them have beaten market expectations.

U.S. markets are trading at record levels on optimism that the U.S. economy is recovering and that the Federal Reserve will continue its easing policy to keep long-term interest rates low.

"We don't think people are giving enough credit to the strength of the economy," said Ryan Detrick, a senior technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research. "We still like the market."

German and Japanese stocks surging

It’s not just U.S. stock markets that have been soaring lately. Germany’s DAX index hit a new record high on Tuesday as official figures showed industrial orders rose strongly for a second straight month.

In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index hit its highest level in almost five years Tuesday – closing with a 3.6 per cent gain at 14,180.24. It’s the first time the Nikkei has breached the 14,000 mark since June 2008.

Japanese stocks have been marked up heavily this year after the Bank of Japan announced a new aggressive monetary policy to get the country out of its near two-decade stagnation.

Here at home, the S&P/TSX composite index is still 20 per cent below its all-time high set in mid-2008 as weak commodity prices have weighed on resource stock prices. The benchmark index rose 10.19 points Tuesday to close at 12,464.11.

The Canadian dollar closed at 99.56 cents US, up 0.24 cents. That's near a three-month high.

With files from The Associated Press