Stocks Rally into the Close Ahead of FOMC Meeting

MarketsDow Jones Newswires

U.S. stocks kicked off the week on a high note, posting solid gains on Monday, as international markets rallied and investors looked toward the Federal Open Market Committee's meeting and policy statement on Wednesday.

The S&P 500 (SPX) rose 27.79 points, or 1.4%, to 2,081.19, with nine of its 10 main sectors gaining. Health-care and utility stocks led the gains, while materials lagged behind.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) jumped 228.11 points, or 1.3%, to 17,977.42, with 28 of its 30 components finishing higher. The Dow moved triple-digits in the six of the past seven sessions.

The Nasdaq Composite (RIXF) added 57.75 points, or 1.2%, to 4,929.51, led by big gains in biotechnology stocks.

Colin Cieszinski, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, said Monday's action was a typical trading bounce after selling off last week.

"Despite today's bounce the S&P 500 is still rangebound. The upside is capped because so much focus is on the Fed's tightening plans, but the downside is floored because of growing economy and earnings potential," Cieszinski said.

"This kind of choppy market is normal in a time of transition," the CMC strategist noted.

JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at TD Ameritrade, said lighter volumes have made it easier for stocks to rebound sharply.

"Markets have been oversold and beat up and part of the reason for a sharp bounce is some investors are covering short positions ahead of the Fed decision on Wednesday while light volumes amplify this action," Kinahan said.

He noted that investors have begun unwinding positions ahead of the quadruple witching day on Friday, when all quarterly options and futures contracts expire.

Analysts said a rally in European equity markets helped positive mood in the U.S. The German DAX 30 index jumped 2% and climbed above 12,000 for the first time on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Shanghai Composite Index rallied 2.3% to its highest settlement in 5 1/2 years after Chinese premier Li Keqiang said the government would step up efforts to bolster economic growth.

In other markets, oil prices (CLJ5) settled at their lowest level in six year, dropping 2.1% to $43.88 a barrel. Gold (GCJ5) eked out gains, rising 0.1%, to settle at $1,153.20.

Cieszinski noted that the stock market somewhat decoupled from the oil market. "The supply glut with no cuts in production is pushing oil prices lower, but it has been affecting stock markets less lately," he said.

Data: On Monday, investors assessed a batch of data that came in softer than expected. The Empire State manufacturing gauge moved slightly lower in March, but was still pointing to improving conditions, with solid gains in the employment index.

Industrial production rose a seasonally adjusted 0.1% in February, the Federal Reserve said Monday. The increase was smaller than expected.

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