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Stocks Ease Higher in Quiet Session

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average wavered in the final hour of trading but still managed to finish Monday with a gain for the first time since May.

Investor optimism stemming from last week's better than expected jobs report carried over into Monday's quiet session with traders getting no new domestic economic data to chew over and few earnings headlines to key on as second-quarter reporting season winds down.

The Dow closed up more than 21 points, or 0.16%, at 13,117.51, sliding back after running as high as 13,187 earlier in the session. Thanks to Friday's mega-rally after nonfarm payrolls increased by 163,000 in July, the blue-chip index is riding a four-week winning streak, its longest since a five-week stretch of gains in October 2011.

Nineteen of the index's 30 components finished in the green with Bank of America (BAC), Cisco Systems (CSCO) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) leading the way.

Dow decliners included American Express (AXP), Home Depot (HD) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ).

The S&P 500 rose more than 3 points, or 0.23%, to close at 1394. The index rose as high as 1399.63, stalling out just below 1400, a level it hasn't reached on an intraday basis since May 3.

Basic materials, consumer cyclicals and technology were the strongest sectors in the broad market, while consumer non-cyclicals, transportation and utilities were weak spots.

The Nasdaq was the big winner, advancing 22 points, or 0.74%, to settle at 2990. The tech-heavy index topped out at 3000.24, breaking above that level on an intraday basis for the first time since May 4. Apple (AAPL) rose 1.1% to finish at $622.55.

Winners outpaced losers by a roughly 2-to-1 ratio on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.5-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

Paul Nolte, managing partner at Dearborn Partners, cautioned investors this rally hasn't been confirmed by heavy trading action as global slowdown fears persist.

"If the daily volume traded measures excitement for the market, there remains little euphoria for stocks at this point ... Friday's huge rally on the employment report was more of an outlier as volume actually contracted by 10%," he said.

Monday saw 3.10 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.53 billion shares traded on the Nasdaq.

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