Dow Creeps Toward its All-Time High


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The blue-chip average shook off early losses and turned positive Monday, leaving it less than 40 points shy of its all-time closing high.

Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 38.2 points, or 0.27%, to 14128, the S&P 500 gained 7 points, or 0.46%, to 1525 and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 12.3 points, or 0.39%, to 3182.

The Dow closed out last week at its highest level since October 2007 and within just about 0.5% of its record closing high. Events in Europe and Asia initially put pressure on equities, but then the tide turned in afternoon action.

The worst performers Monday could be found among economically-sensitive sectors: energy, materials and industrials. Defensive sectors, like utilities and telecommunications generally outperformed their peers.

Oil prices sold off, breaking below the $90 a barrel mark for the first time this year, before retracing their losses somewhat. The benchmark U.S. oil contract fell 56 cents, or 0.62%, to $90.12 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.97% to $3.10 a gallon. Gold slipped was essentially unchanged at $1,572 a troy ounce.

HSBC (NYSE:HBS) posted annual earnings of $20.6 billion for 2012, falling short of the Street's forecast of $22.7 billion. HSBC is Europe's biggest bank, meaning the miss weighed on shares across the continent. The euro also fell 0.21% to $1.2995.

There was also ongoing political instability in the eurozone. Italy was still without a viable government after elections last week ended in a deadlock. Meanwhile, the Eurogroup was set to meet in Brussels to discuss several issues, including a potential bailout of Cyprus, a small, but highly-indebted nation.

The U.S. economic data docket is bare on the day. Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Janet Yellen gave a speech in which she defended the central banks highly-aggressive monetary policy. She cited the still fragile labor market and tame inflation expectations as her rationale.

However, a worrisome report from China kept global growth fears alive. The expansion in the country's services sector cooled down to its lowest level in five months in February. China is the world's second-biggest economy, and there have been fears for months that it would be in for a so-called hard landing in which growth abruptly drops.

As the week progresses, though, there will be several important economic reports released, focusing on the labor market. The private payroll report from ADP is out on Wednesday, followed by the all-important February jobs report on Friday. Traders will also get the latest trade figures on Thursday, which figure directly into broader economic measures.

In other corporate news, Hess (NYSE:HES) unveiled a $4 billion share buyback authorization and said it will exit its downstream business fully. As part of the move, it will exit the retail business, energy trading and energy marketing.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 dipped 0.29% to 2609, the English FTSE 100 fell 0.56% to 6343 and the German DAX slumped 0.54% to 7665.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rose 0.4% to 11652 and the Chinese Hang Seng sold off by 1.5% to 22538.