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%.
The S&P 500 rose to a near four year high, up 5.6 points, or 0.4%, at 1410. The Nasdaq closed up 23.1 points, or 0.8%, at 3078.
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.
London's FTSE closed down 0.1%, and Germany's DAX fell 0.09%. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei Average finished up 0.12% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed lower by 0.95%.
In company news, United Parcel Service (UPS)
said Monday it agreed to buy TNT Express
, the second-largest express delivery company in Europe, for almost $7 billion. UPS will buy TNT for €9.5 a share ($6.77 billion). Last month, UPS offered to buy TNT for €9 a share, or $6.4 billion, but the offer was rejected. The acquisition is the biggest ever for UPS, which is the No. 1 delivery company in the world, and is expected to help UPS expand its reach in Europe, Latin America and Asia. UPS shares rose 3.4% to $81.11.
LDK Solar (LDK)
, the Chinese solar company, lowered the top end of its revenue range for the fourth quarter. LDK said Monday gross-profit margins likely would be negative and it would record inventory write downs and charges because of falling prices wafers and modules. Shares were off 5.5% to $4.63.
April oil futures gained $1.95 to $107.06 a barrel, while April gold futures edged down $3.70 to $1,655.80 an ounce.
The benchmark 10-year Treasury was falling 5/32, pushing the yield to 2.316%, while the U.S. dollar index was falling 0.5%.
-- Written by Chao Deng and Andrea Tse in New York.
>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse