Trader Michael Iervoline, right, works on the floor of the...

Trader Michael Iervoline, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday. The Dow hovered around 13,000 most of the day before closing above it at 13,016. (Feb. 28, 2012) Credit: AP

The Dow Jones industrial average Tuesday reclaimed the last of the ground it held before the carnage of the Great Recession -- bailouts, bank failures, layoffs by the millions and a stock market panic that cut retirement savings in half.

The Dow closed above 13,000 for the first time since May 19, 2008, almost four months before the fall of the Lehman Brothers investment bank triggered the worst of the financial crisis.

It just cleared the mark -- 13,005.12, up 23.61 points for the day.

"I think it's a momentous day for investor confidence," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank. "Now we're back."

The milestone comes at a time when Americans are feeling better about the economy than they have in a year. The Conference Board, a private research group, said its consumer confidence index was 70.8 for February, up from 61.5 in January.

The report came out at 10 a.m. and lifted the Dow above 13,000. It stayed there most of the day.

"Two months ago, we were talking about a double-dip recession. Now consumer confidence is growing," said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist for Schaffer's Investment Research.

The breaking of the 13,000 barrier continues a remarkable run for stocks this year. The Dow started with its best January since 1997 and has added to that gain. The index is up 6.5 percent for the young year.

The Standard & Poor's 500 is up 9 percent, and the Nasdaq composite index, dominated by technology stocks, is up 14 percent.

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