NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks closed near session highs Monday as a technical breakthrough by the S&P 500 and an official end date for the recent economic recession had investors feeling more confident about the market's direction a day ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee's rate decision. News that IBM ( IBM) plans to acquire
Netezza ( NZ), a maker of data warehouse and monitoring appliances, for $1.7 billion also lifted equities, as did better-than-expected earnings from Lennar ( LEN). The homebuilder swung to a third-quarter profit of 16 cents a share, far exceeding Wall Street's expectation for a profit of a nickel per share, according to Briefing.com. Shares of Netezza jumped 14.9% to $28.27 and Lennar's stock climbed 8.2% to $15.14. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 146 points, or 1.4%, to finish at 10,754. The S&P 500 added 17 points, or 1.5%, to 1,143, and the Nasdaq finished 40 points higher, or up by 1.7%, at 2,356. The Dow is now up in 12 of the last 14 sessions, and Monday's finish was its highest since May 13. The September rally is on an historic pace with its gain of 7.4% to date putting it on track for its best performance in this historically bad month since 1939. During Monday's session, the National Bureau of Economic Research said the recession that began in December 2007 officially ended in June 2009, marking a 18-month downturn that was the longest recession since World War II. Speaking at an "Investing in America" town hall meeting on Monday afternoon, President Obama said that although the recession is over Americans are still struggling to regain financial footing. Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald, credited the market's advance to the S&P's technical breakout above 1,130. Pado believes that the forces pushing markets forward have been building for a while. "What we're seeing right now has more with what will be compelling the market going forward. You have the end of the quarter coming up and equity participation has been low -- particularly in the technology sector. There's a natural transition that occurs at the end of September out of consumer staples, which have done really well, but they aren't your typical fourth-quarter investments," Pado said, adding that the fourth-quarter usually sees improvement in consumer spending and IT spending. "Plus you have third-quarter earnings coming up. Last week, Oracle ( ORCL) and Research In Motion ( RIMM) showed that good profits can still be made in this environment so I think earnings will be largely positive for the market." Additionally, Pado sees election results as likely to be supportive since the market likes to see parties split between the House and Senate because the "gridlock" tends to result in more moderate policies. "Overall, there's a real sense that there's very little negative that hasn't already played out," Pado said, pointing to European debt concerns, new financial regulations and health care reform. "We see a lot more positives than negatives on the horizon."
National Association of Home Builders said its housing market index remained unchanged at 13 in September even though economists had been anticipating an increase to 14, according to Briefing.com. Monday's rally was widespread with gains seen across the services, capital goods and energy sectors. On the Dow, American Express ( AXP), JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), Bank of America ( BAC) and Home Depot ( HD) were the session's top performers. Cisco Systems ( CSCO) was the only component to close in negative territory, while Merck ( MRK), Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) and Intel ( INTC) finished with the mildest gains. United Airlines parent UAL Corp ( UAUA) said it will return to the New York Stock Exchange on Oct. 1 when it finalizes its merger with Continental Airlines ( CAL), capping a four-year stint on the Nasdaq. UAL's stock added 2.1%, to $22.42. Low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines wants to raise up to $300 million in an initial public offering, according to a recent regulatory filing. American International Group ( AIG) plans to list its Asian life insurance unit, AIA Group, on the Hong Kong stock exchange on Oct. 29, targeting a $15 billion initial public offering, according to Reuters, which is lower than a deal that AIG's board rejected. Shares of AIG rose 2.7% to $36.60. Credit card issuer Discover Financial Services ( DFS) reported a third-quarter profit of 47 cents a share, surpassing analysts' earnings target of 37 cents a share. The stock traded 3.8% higher to $16.16. Clorox ( CLX) is nearing an agreement to sell its STP and Armor All car-care brands to private-equity firm Avista Capital Partners for $750 million to $800 million, according to Bloomberg. Clorox's stock gained 1.4% to $67.61. Verizon Communications ( VZ) will likely name Lowell McAdam as president and chief operating officer, putting him in line to succeed CEO Ivan Seidenberg, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The stock was ahead by 1.3% at $32.09. In commodity markets, crude oil for November delivery gained $1.27, or 1.7%, to settle at $76.19 a barrel while the December gold contract added $3.30, or 0.3%, to settle at $1280.80 an ounce. Meanwhile, the dollar slippled slightly against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index down by 0.1%. The benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose 11/32, diluting the yield to 2.705%. Overseas, Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.03%, while Japanese markets were closed for a holiday. The FTSE in London added 1.6%, and the DAX in Frankfurt gained 1.4%. --Written by Melinda Peer in New York.