Stocks Climb as Earnings Season Looms

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The markets posted modest gains on Monday as traders awaited the kick off of first-quarter earnings season.

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Today's Markets

As of 3:17 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 7.8 points, or 0.06%, to 14573, the S&P 500 gained 4.8 points, or 0.31%, to 1558 and the Nasdaq Composite ticked up 8.4 points, or 0.26%, to 3212.

After a period where the biggest corporate news has come in the form of mergers and acquisitions, first-quarter earnings season is set to kick off. Alumnium giant Alcoa (NYSE:AA) is due to report after the close in New York. This will be the first quarter after the fiscal cliff debacle, where Americans were hit with an across-the-board payroll tax hike among several other forms of fiscal tightening.

The U.S. data docket is fairly light on the day. However, Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) chief economist Jan Hatzius issued a note to clients over the weekend saying the U.S. economy is "losing steam as winter turns into spring."

Hatzius sees the pace of U.S. growth slowing down from roughly 3% in the first quarter, to 2% in the following two quarters. As such, the investment bank doesn't see the Federal Reserve tightening policy any time soon, and expects a "fairly dovish" statement from the central bank on May 1.

Elsewhere in corporate news, General Electric (NYSE:GE) said it will buy oilfield servicing company Lufkin Industries for $3.3 billion.

Oil and gasoline prices both posted solid gains. The benchmark U.S. crude oil contract climbed 71 cents, or 0.76%, to $93.40 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline rallied 1.9% to $2.918 a gallon. In metals, gold fell $3.20, or 0.2%, to $1,573 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.59% to 2601, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.39% to 6274 and the German DAX climbed 0.32% to 7683.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 surged 2.8% to 12193 and the Chinese Hang Seng edged lower by 0.04% to 21718.

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