Dow and S&P 500 hit new record highs

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Stocks surged Wednesday, pushing the Dow and S&P to new record highs.

The gains came after the Federal Reserve’s minutes showed that most members think asset purchases should continue through at least mid 2013.

“People still think that we will have QE in perpetuity,” said Douglas DiPietro, head of trading at Evercore.

The minutes, which were released five hours early, showed that central bankers remain divided over whether quantitative easing should be continued longer-term but that didn’t appear to worry investors.

The Dow hit a new trading high of 14,807.60, moving up 0.8%. The S&P 500 finally topped its 2007 trading record high, rising to 1,585.65, and gained 1%.

The Nasdaq jumped 1.5%.

Several analysts and traders said that Wednesday’s surge came mostly from investors not wanting to miss any more legs of the rally. Outside of the Fed minutes, there was no clear catalyst for the surge.

“The path of least resistance is to push the market higher,” said DiPietro.

Investors also liked trade figures out of China for March that showed a 10% year-over-year increase, buoyed primarily by exports to the United States.

Also Wednesday, President Obama unveiled his 2014 budget proposal, which serves as an important marker in continuing debt negotiations in Washington.

In company news, shares of Family Dollar erased earlier losses that were driven by an earnings miss and weak outlook.

Better-than-expected results from computer networking company Adtran helped push up other networking companies, including Cisco and Alcatel-Lucent.

Shares of JC Penney slumped amid uncertainty about the troubled retailer’s future after former CEO Ron Johnson was ousted Monday.

Facebook’s stock rose more than 4% after General Motors announced that it would return to advertising on the social media site, ending its year-long hiatus.

Shares of First Solar pulled back after a big surge Tuesday following better-than-expected guidance from the solar panel maker.

Home builder Taylor Morrison jumped 5% in its public debut, after the initial public offering priced at the high end of its range.

International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde is speaking at the New York Economic Club at 12:15 p.m. ET. Her remarks follow new flare-ups in Cyprus and Portugal over the past few weeks.

European markets closed higher, with London’s FTSE 100 rising 1.2% and the CAC 40 in Paris and the DAX in Frankfurt gaining more than 2%.

Asian markets ended higher, as China trade data offset continued tensions and potential war on the Korean peninsula and Fitch Ratings’ warning over excessive debt in China.

The Hang Seng increased 0.8%, the Nikkei gained 0.7% and the Shanghai Composite added less than 0.1%.

The dollar fell against the British pound and euro but was up against the Japanese yen.

Oil and gold prices dipped.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.8% from 1.75% Tuesday.

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