NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks finished with solid gains Monday, buoyed by surging commodities that were themselves lifted by a weakening dollar, but the major equity indexes stayed locked within a tight trading range ahead of Friday's jobs report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 46 points, or 0.4%, to 10,896. The S&P 500 gained 7 points, or 0.6%, to 1173 and the Nasdaq went ahead by 9 points, or 0.4%, to 2404.

One market observer said the movement was indicative of traders positioning themselves ahead of the government nonfarm payroll report, which is due Friday, the same day the stock market will be closed for Good Friday.

"I think what the market is trying to do here is game a little in advance of Friday's jobs report, which it won't be able to trade on until Monday," said Paul Nolte, managing director at Dearborn Partners. "People are getting ready for Friday, getting ready for the number, and getting ready for church."

Markets also showed little reaction to news that two female suicide bombers set off separate explosions on Moscow's subway system Monday morning, killing at least 36 people.

Greece plans to issue a new seven-year bond in its first debt offering since the European Union and International Monetary Fund pledged support to the country last week.

Overseas, Hong Kong's Hang Seng lifted 0.9%, and Japan's Nikkei fell 0.09%. The FTSE in London added 0.1%, and the DAX in Frankfurt gained 0.6%.

The Economy

Ahead of the opening bell, the Commerce Department said personal spending rose 0.3% as expected, in February after growing 0.4% in January. Personal incomes, however, remained unchanged while economists had projected an uptick of 0.1%.

PNC economist Stuart Hoffman blamed the lack of improvement in personal incomes on weak job growth.

"In the February income report, wage and salary income was unchanged for the month, in line with near neutral net job creation," Hoffman said, adding that wages and salaries comprise roughly half of total personal income.

Economists are expecting the Labor Department to report that the economy added 190,000 nonfarm payrolls in March when it releases its March jobs report on Friday.

"Stronger hiring would have been evident last month if not for record snowfall across many regions of the country," said Deutsche Bank economist Joseph LaVorgna. "A massive increase in March nonfarm payrolls, partly the result of the weather payback and partly the result of improving labor demand, is projected for the next employment report."

Speaking of economic data and other headlines today, Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist at RidgeWorth Investments, said the "overall trend in the news is better." Still, he remained cautious ahead of several key economic reports this week.

"We're still waiting for news that the recovery is gaining sustainable traction," he said.

To his point, Gayle said he's waiting for Wednesday's Chicago PMI reading along with Friday's jobs report to get a more complete picture of the economic environment.

Company News

Energy and basic materials stocks were the day's best performers, aided by a weaker dollar. Exxon ( XOM) and Chevron ( CVX) were among the Dow's biggest gainers, after Caterpillar ( CAT), Merck ( MRK) and Alcoa ( AA). Boeing ( BA), however, was the Dow's top advancer.

Southwestern Energy ( SWN) led the gainers within the S&P 500, surging 8%, after receiving an upgrade and being added to the conviction list at Goldman Sachs.

British petroleum company BP ( BP) said it's closing its solar panel plant in Frederick, Md., and laying off 320 employees.

Apple ( AAPL) said Best Buy ( BBY) will be its only partner when the iPad is launched on Saturday. Best Buy's stock lost 0.4% while Apple shares traded 0.7% higher, to $232.43.

The U.S. Treasury chose Morgan Stanley ( MS) as underwriter and adviser to the sale of its 27% stake in Citigroup ( C). Morgan Stanley's stock added 58 cents, or 2%, to $29.43 while Citi's stock fell by 13 cents, or 3%, to $4.18.

Financial stocks, in general, turned in the weakest performance of the day, as the KBW Bank index retreated 0.3%.

Citigroup shares were the most heavily traded on the New York Stock Exchange, followed by Ford Motor ( F) and Bank of America ( BAC). The NYSE had a listed volume of nearly 4.4 billion while the Dow's volume was light at 136.6 million, compared to an average of 200 million.

Ford ( F) shares dropped 2.1% on news that it agreed to sell Volvo to China's Geely Automobile Holdings for $1.8 billion. Ford paid more than $6 billion for the brand in 1999.

"The sale enables Ford to focus on Ford brands," said UBS analyst Colin Langan. "Moreover, Volvo was a money-losing division."

Shares of Apollo Group ( APOL) improved 3.1% after the education provider reported improved enrollment and revenues. Second-quarter earnings, however, were negatively impacted by a pre-tax charge related to a class-action lawsuit.

Wal-Mart ( WMT) appears to be setting its sights on China and Japan for its e-commerce launch, according to The Financial Times. The stock advanced 23 cents, or 0.4%, to $55.74.

Vodafone ( VOD) and Verizon Communications ( VZ) are reportedly discussing a full merger, according to a report in the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph.

Commodities and the Dollar

Crude oil for May delivery added $2.17 to settle at $82.17 a barrel, while the April gold contract gained $6 to settle at $1,110.30 an ounce.

The dollar was trading lower against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index down by 0.4%.


The benchmark 10-year Treasury fell 6/32, lifting the yield to 3.874%.

The two-year note fell a fraction, as the yield rose to 1.052%. The 30-year bond dropped 15/32, raising the yield to 4.777%.

--Written by Melinda Peer and Sung Moss in New York.