US stock indexes edge higher at start of week; Nasdaq inches toward all-time high

Energy Associated Press

U.S. stock indexes edged higher in afternoon trading following a strong performance last week. The gains on Monday were wide but slight: Eight of 10 sectors in the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose, though not by much.

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KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 rose three points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,111 as of 2:50 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 50 points, or 0.3 percent, to 18,177 while the Nasdaq composite slipped two points, a sliver of a percent, to 5,024. That's close to its all-time high reached during the dot-com bubble in 2000.

Last week, the S&P 500 jumped nearly 3 percent, its biggest weekly gain since early February.

GREECE IN FOCUS: In Europe, traders kept tabs on a meeting between the leaders of Greece and Germany for signs of progress in Greece's debt negotiations. Greece faces a cash crunch in the coming weeks and is in talks with its European lenders on what steps it must make to receive more loans. On Monday, Greece's Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, committed to keeping a dialogue open on reforms that would qualify Greece for urgently-needed rescue loans.

SOLID: Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial, said he expects the market to head higher over the coming months because there appears to be nothing on the horizon capable of knocking it off course. Investors have pushed the S&P 500 to all-time highs despite concerns over Europe's sluggish economy and slumping oil prices. "Greece hasn't pulled it down, deflation hasn't pulled it down," McMillan said. "Unless the Federal Reserve says it's going to raise interest rates in June, I just can't see what's going to pull it down."

WARNING: The stock of Gilead Sciences dropped following news that the pharmaceutical company told physicians that nine patients taking its hepatitis C treatments developed slow heartbeats and that one died. Gilead slid $1.77, or 2 percent, to $100.53.

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EUROPE: Major markets in Europe ended mixed. Germany's DAX lost 1.2 percent and France's CAC 40 shed 0.7 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 picked up 0.2 percent.

ASIA'S DAY: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 finished with a gain of 1 percent. In China, the Shanghai Composite Index surged 2 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5 percent.

OPTIMISM: The U.S. stock market is coming off its best week since February 6. The strong performance ended with a rebound in oil prices and higher earnings from sportswear giant Nike and other big companies on Friday. The biggest gains came earlier in the week when the Federal Reserve said Wednesday that it was in no hurry to hike rates with inflation low.

ONE VIEW: In a note, Evan Lucas of IG Markets said that, based "on current statements, no central bank in the developed world is going to raise rates before June. In fact, the market believes no central bank will lift rates before September."

CRUDE: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 81 cents to $47.39 a barrel in New York.

METALS: Prices for precious and industrial metals climbed higher. Gold rose $3.10 to settle at $1,187.70 an ounce, while silver picked up a penny to $16.89 an ounce. Copper added 3 cents to $2.79.

CURRENCY: The dollar fell to 119.87 yen from Friday's 120.03 yen. The euro rose to $1.0944 from $1.0820.