This story was updated at 4:20 p.m. EST.
Wall Street bulls were taking a breather Monday after a three-week rally pushed markets up from a rough start to the year. But U.S. markets eked out slight gain after the bulls and the bears played tug-of-war for much of the day. The S&P closed just above 2,000 for the first time since Jan. 6.
European shares extended losses in the first trading session of the week as investors absorbed the latest economic news out of China and paused ahead of this week’s European Central Bank meeting. Trading this week is expected to be volatile as investors fret that the ECB might provide a lower-than-expected rate cut or end its quantitative easing policy of increasing the money supply.
"Equity markets are in the red this morning as markets trade back from their highs on concerns that European Central Bank President Mario Draghi might disappoint on Thursday,” London-based online trading services provider Accendo Markets said in a note on Monday.
Brent crude topped $40 per barrel for the first time this year while Asian markets got a slight boost after China’s National People’s Congress announced as expected that it would support growth in the world’s second-largest economy. Stocks ended last week in the green after a better-than-expected U.S. jobs report ameliorated concerns the U.S. was tipping into recession.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) closed up 67.18 points, or 0.04 percent, to 17,073.95. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index (INDEXSP:.INX) rose a slight 1.77 points, or 0.09 percent, to 2,001.76. The Nasdaq composite (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) lost 8.77 points, or 0.19 percent, to 4,708.25.
The Dow has gained more than 7 percent from its lowest level so far this year hit on Feb. 11 and closed above 17,000 on Friday for the first time since Jan. 6. The S&P gained 8 percent in the same period of time.
Six of the 10 S&P 500 sectors were up by the closing bell with energy and materials exhibiting modest gains. Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) and Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) led Dow gains. Nike Inc. (NYSE:NKE) and Visa Inc. (NYSE:V) led declines.
Oil prices jumped Monday with Brent crude touching a three-month high helped by a rally in Asian stocks and news last week that the number of U.S. active drilling rigs continued to decline.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate gained 5.5 percent to $37.88 per barrel for April delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its best daily settlement price for the year. Brent crude, the other major global benchmark, gained 4.98 percent to $40.65 for May delivery on the London ICE Futures Exchange. The last time Brent closed above $40 per barrel was on Dec. 9.
The benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury rose Monday to 1.92 percent from Friday’s close of 1.90 percent. The bond yield typically rises when investors are more confident about the markets and falls when concerns flare. Gold, another so-called safe harbor investment, lost 0.1 percent to $1,269.40. Gold prices tend to rise as confidence in the markets falls.
European markets closed down Monday with the broad Stoxx Europe 600 index losing 0.28 percent to 340.83. The Paris-based CAC 40 lost 0.32 percent to 4,441 while London’s FTSE shed 0.27 percent to 6,182. Frankfurt’s DAX lost 0.46 percent to 9,779.
In Asia, markets ended the day mixed after China’s 10-day annual National People’s Congress kicked off this weekend. Officials announced a target range for growth in 2016 of between 6.5 percent and 7 percent. They reiterated their commitment to of achieving average annual growth of 6.5 percent through 2020.
“There are some tentative signs of an increased sense of urgency over tackling one of the key causes of China’s debt problem – its inefficient state sector,” Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist for Capital Economics said in a note Monday. “Policymakers’ newfound willingness to acknowledge the existence of ‘zombie firms’ and admit that they may require ‘bankruptcy liquidations’ and involve layoffs is, at the very least, a positive shift in language.”
China’s CSI 300 Index of the mainland’s largest companies closed Monday up 0.35 percent to 3,105. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost a slight 0.08 percent to 20,152. Japan’s Nikkei lost 0.61 percent to 16,911. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 1 percent to 5,143, while South Korea’s main Kospi Index advanced 0.11 percent to 1,958.
Stocks moving U.S. markets on Monday include the following:
E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. (NYSE:DD), whose stock was trading up after Bloomberg reported Sunday that German chemicals company BASF SE (FRA:BAS) was considering a counter-bid for the Delaware-based science and technology company. DuPont is currently in merger talks with Dow Chemical Co. (NYSE:DOW). BASF shares were down Monday morning while Dow’s stock was near flat.
Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (NASDAQ:MRVL) stock rose after the Bermuda-based semiconductor maker said it was open for sale, according to a report over the weekend from the New York Post. Marvell, which recently settled a patent dispute with Carnegie Mellon University for $750 million, could be bought by privately held Singapore-based Avago Technologies Ltd., a source told the Post.
Dunkin Brands Group Inc. (NASDAQ:DNKN) shares plunged after investment firm Guggenheim downgraded its stock to “neutral” from “buy,” citing concerns over earnings in the near term for the owner of Starbucks rival Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins ice cream.