After Weak Open, Stocks Continue Push Higher

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Shrugging off initial weakness, the major market averages once again climbed on Monday, with the Dow hitting fresh record highs.

Today's Markets

As of 3:20 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 29.5 points, or 0.2%, to 14426, the S&P 500 climbed 3.2 points, or 0.21%, to 1554 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 4.4 points, or 0.13%, to 3249.

The blue-chip average posted its third-straight week of gains last week, topping a record high set in 2007. Meanwhile, the broader S&P 500 extended its winning streak to two weeks and moved within 0.9% of its all-time peak.

Sentiment across world trading desks was slightly less optimistic as the new week kicked off. Markets in Asia were mixed, while European bourses were broadly lower. However, U.S. markets were able to shake off those worries.

The financial, health-care, utility and industrial sectors fared the best on the day, while telecommunications, energy and technology generally lagged. Volatility continued its journey lower, with the CBOE's VIX sliding more than 7%.

The yields on benchmark U.S. Treasuy bonds were up modestly as traders continued moving into equities. The 10-year yield climbed 0.016-percentage point to 2.058%.

Data released over the weekend showed China's industrial output growing at an annual pace of 9.9% in the first two months of the year, slower than the 10.5% economists expected. Retail sales expanded at a rate of 12.3%, also coming in shy of forecasts of 15.2%. China is the world's second-biggest economy, and while growth has remained robust, there have been concerns that it could cool dramatically as the global economy struggles.

Fitch sliced Italy's long-term credit rating one notch from "A-" to "BBB+" with a negative outlook in the middle of the U.S. session on Friday. European markets were already closed at the time, so traders there had their first chance to respond Monday. Italy's benchmark stock-market index sold off by 1%.

The downgrade "illustrates the [European Central Bank's] lack of control over elements in the matrix of risks assessed by investors and rating agencies," Guy Mandy, an analyst at Nomura wrote to clients over the weekend. The ECB was able to calm embattled eurozone debt markets by saying it is prepared to do whatever it takes to keep borrowing costs from spiking last fall.

Energy futures ended mixed after a choppy session. The benchmark U.S. crude oil contract climbed 11 cents, or 0.12%, to $92.06 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline sold off by 1.6% to $3.152 a gallon. In metals, gold ticked up by $1.10, or 0.07%, to $1,578 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 dropped 0.37% to 2719, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.31% to 6504 and the German DAX slipped 0.03% to 7984.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 gained 0.53% to 12349 and the Chinese Hang Seng was essentially unchanged at 23091.

Follow Adam Samson on Twitter @adamsamson.