But investors' enthusiasm cooled after hearing from the House speaker and the president about the fiscal cliff.
Boehner, a Republican, reiterated his opposition to any tax hikes on the wealthy late this morning. Obama responded in the early afternoon by saying there was no way around tax increases, but that he would remain open to any new ideas that congressional leaders might have.
The fiscal cliff is a combination of government spending cuts and tax increases set to go into effect early next year unless Congress acts to change the law before then. It could take an estimated $600 billion out of the U.S. economy and push it into recession.
There was an anticipation that there may be more willingness to compromise, but just like Boehner did earlier in the day, both camps stuck to their lines in the sand, so to speak, said Mohannad Aama, managing director of Beam Capital Management LLC in New York.
Investors are reacting to the prospect of higher tax rates by selling both losing and winning stocks for the year to decrease the tax impact from their positions.
The euro zone is not inspiring confidence, either. Greece's finance minister said his country was running out of cash, growth in Germany is expected to weaken in the next two quarters, and France's central bank said the country's economy would slip into recession as 2012 ends.
Germany and France are the the euro zone's two largest economies, and Greece has been scraping by, thanks to a 130-billion-euro bailout.
International Game Technology gained 5.2 percent to $13.50 after the slot machine company reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings.
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp jumped 14.3 percent to $16.68 after reporting earnings of $75.5 million, an above-expectation figure that was boosted by the studio's blockbuster movie, The Hunger Games.
According to Thomson Reuters data through Friday, of the 449 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings, 63.3 percent have topped analysts' expectations - slightly above the 62 percent average since 1994, but below the 67 percent beat rate over the past four quarters.
But revenue results remain disappointing, with only 38.2 percent of companies topping expectations - well below the 62 percent average since 2002, and the 55 percent beat rate over the past four quarters.
Volume was roughly 6.6 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, compared with the year-to-date average daily closing volume of 6.52 billion.
Decliners outnumbered advancers on the NYSE