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Stocks Notch Month's Top Gains as China Stimulus Gives Boost

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks snapped back from Friday's selloff to start the new week on far better footing. The Dow Jones Industrial Average recovered year-to-date gains while the S&P 500 clinched its best daily gain since the end of March. 

The Dow gained 1.2%, the S&P 500 rose 0.92% and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 1.3%.

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Stocks and crude oil rallied after China launched its latest stimulus measures on Sunday in a move to combat economic growth at six-year lows. The People's Bank of China cut the reserve requirement ratio for banks to 18.5%. Banks will be able to hold lower levels of cash reserves, adding extra liquidity to lend out money. West Texas Intermediate added 1.2% to $56.38 a barrel on hopes that the stimulus would boost demand for energy.

Gold and silver moved lower as capital moved to equity markets. Gold futures for June delivery slipped 0.8% to $1,193.70 an ounce, while silver futures for May delivery tumbled 2.1% to $15.88 an ounce.

Stocks plummeted on Friday with the S&P 500 falling more than 1% and the Dow industrials giving up year-to-date gains. Global markets were under pressure as Greece's debt woes appeared insurmountable and changes in Chinese market regulation spooked investors.

"We expect Chinese growth worries and concerns over Greek debt to remain at the forefront early in the week, with domestic data taking the torch from international events later in the week," TD Securities' Gennadiy Goldberg said.

Worries over Greece's future in the eurozone persisted as its government issued a decree for state-owned companies and public pension funds to transfer cash into the central bank's coffers. Economists estimate that Greece will run out of money by early May unless it can secure further debt relief from its European creditors.

Better-than-expected earnings from Morgan Stanley  (MS - Get Report) and Hasbro (HAS - Get Report) helped boost overall market sentiment. Morgan Stanley added 0.57% on Monday after reporting first-quarter profit of $1.14 a share, beating analysts' estimates by 36 cents. Revenue surged 10.3% to $9.78 billion on a pickup in merger and acquisitions and increased trading activity.

Toymaker Hasbro spiked more than 12% after quarterly profit of 21 cents a share came in more than double estimates. Stripping away currency headwinds, sales grew 14% from a year earlier.

"As we enter the heart of earnings season, it is important to highlight the sentiment surrounding these reports," said Joe Bell, senior equity analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research. "The general consensus among analysts and market participants is that first-quarter earnings season will not be good. The main reasons seem to be the rough winter and everyone's favorite bad guy of late, that mighty U.S. dollar."

Since late last year, first-quarter earnings consensus for S&P 500 companies has been reduced from positive 4.3% to negative 4.8%. That marks its largest downward revision since the first quarter of 2009.

"Expectations are very low heading into earnings season," added Bell. "This could create potential upside for a market that has continued to hold up despite these concerns."

Halliburton (HAL) added 2.1% after a better-than-expected quarter. The oil services company generated net income of 49 cents a share, 12 cents higher than forecasts. Revenue slid more than 4% to $7.05 billion.

IBM (IBM) led the Dow ahead of quarterly earnings that are scheduled to be released after the closing bell on Monday. The tech giant is expected to report profit of $2.80 a share on revenue of $19.64 billion. Sales are expected to slide 11% on a stronger U.S. dollar and weaker PC demand.

Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) tumbled 8% after lowering its full-year earnings guidance to $4.45 to $4.65 a share, down from $4.65 to $4.85 a share. The cruiseliner said profit would be hit by a stronger dollar and higher expenses.

General Electric (GE) shares were active on reports that it is considering selling its commercial lending arm to Wells Fargo (WFC). The division is worth about $74 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. Wells Fargo shares added 1%.

Mortgage companies Radian Group (RDN) and MGIC Investment (MTG) were higher after government-owned Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC) issued softened mortgage insurer standards late Friday. Capital requirements on certain loans made from 2005 and 2008 have been eased.

Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner (TWC) were on watch following reports the two companies are scheduled for talks with the Justice Department on Wednesday. Justice officials reportedly are against the $45 billion merger on antitrust grounds, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Target (TGT) shares were also on the radar after the company saw major in-store and Web site delays after launching its Lilly Pulitzer line over the weekend. Stores have reportedly already sold out of the line.

BlackRock Advisors, a subsidiary of BlackRock (BLK), came under fire from the Securities and Exchange Commission after failing to disclose a conflict of interest to clients. BlackRock has agreed to settle charges and pay a $12 million penalty.

The U.S. economy will improve after the first quarter, said William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in prepared remarks to an economic forum on Monday. Dudley cited winter weather and West Coast port closures as reasons for weakness and soft inflation over the first quarter, the effects of which should dissipate in the second quarter onward.

The economic calendar is bare on Monday with no major releases scheduled until Wednesday when monthly existing home sales data is due. Jobless claims and new home sales data is due on Thursday, with durable goods orders numbers slated for Friday.

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MS $36.96 0.00%
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