Stocks Post Gains, Helped By Apple
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks posted gains Monday afternoon following a lukewarm housing report and Apple's(AAPL) announcement to deploy its massive cash pile.
The market pared gains going into the close, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average finishing up 7 points, or 0.05%, at 13,239.
Technology, energy and financial stocks led the broader market. Several bank stocks rose after Morgan Stanley raised its outlook on the sector. Bank of America (BAC) , lagging on the Dow, closed down 2.8% after topping $10 a piece during intraday trading. However, helping the index higher were JPMorgan Chase (JPM) , up 1%, and American Express (AXP) , up 1.3%.
Apple popped 2.7% by the close, sending the stock to $601.10 a share. Earlier today, the company announced that it will pay a quarterly dividend and buy back shares. The news ended months of speculation over what the company had planned for its near $100 billion cash hoard. Apple said it would spend $10 billion on a share-repurchase program and begin paying investors a dividend of $2.65 per share in the fourth quarter so that over the course of three years it will spend $45 billion.
Economic news was light Monday. The monthly National Association of Home Builders' housing market index suggested that homebuilder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes was unchanged in March after economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters were expecting a slight rise. However, after five consecutive months of gains on the index, it is now holding at its highest level since June 2007.
"While builders are still very cautious at this time, there is a sense that many local housing markets have started to move in the right direction and that prospects for future sales are improving," said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the NAHB.
Gains on Monday follow a strong prior week when the S&P 500 finished above 1400 for the first time since June 2008 and the Nasdaq moving well above 3,000.
"It was an unequivocal win for the bulls last week, as the major equity benchmarks finished with gains of more than 2% apiece," said Todd Salamone, senior vice president of Research, Schaeffer's Investment Research. "While everyone's still a little skittish over high gasoline prices, traders cheered stronger-than-forecast reports on manufacturing and employment, sending stocks to new multi-year highs along the way. Nevertheless, after two-plus years of improving price action, naysayers continue to find reasons to doubt this rally."
Salamone noted that the early March decline may be all that those waiting for a deeper pullback will get for now. The technical backdrop of the benchmark equity indexes still looks "healthy," he explained.