RTTNews - Despite a choppy start on Monday, stocks were able to move firmly into positive territory in mid-morning trading, hovering near their highs for most of remainder of the session. The major averages kicked off the week on a strong note, finishing up by notable margins amid a low volume trading session.

The light volume came as some traders remained on the sidelines ahead of the release of key economic figures later in the week. Traders are looking ahead to data on home prices, consumer confidence, manufacturing and employment.

Amid a light day on the economic front, the sentencing of Bernard Madoff for his $65 billion Ponzi scheme drew some attention, with Madoff receiving the maximum sentence of 150 years in prison.

Despite arguments from his defense and words from the former financier himself that he was truly sorry, Judge Denny Chin ensured that Madoff would spend the rest of his life in jail.

On the corporate front, Apple (AAPL) confirmed that CEO Steve Jobs is back at work on a part-time basis, returning after a nearly six-month medical leave during which he underwent a liver transplant.

Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman (NOC) saw some strength after it received a contract along with Cobham for the supply of an upgraded vehicle intercom system from the U.S. Army. The contract is valued at up to $2.4 billion.

The major indices all closed higher, with the Dow and the S&P 500 finishing near their best levels of the day. The Dow closed up 90.99 points or 1.1 percent at 8,529.38, the Nasdaq closed up 5.84 points or 0.3 percent at 1,844.06, and the S&P rose 8.33 points or 0.9 percent to 927.23.

Sector News

Banking stocks climbed by notable margins, as reflected by the 1.6 percent gain posted by the Kbw Banking Index. Despite the strong gain, the index remained stuck within a roughly two month trading range.

Oil stocks also turned in strong performances, with the NYSE Arca Oil Index rising by 1.5 percent. The upward move helped the index to move further away from the nearly two-month closing low set last Monday.

The gains by oil stocks came amid a considerable increase in the price of oil, with crude for August delivery closing up $2.33 at $71.49 a barrel. The price increase came as continued violence in Nigeria has added to supply concerns.

Additionally, software and utility stocks also rose, resulting in 1.2 percent gains by both the NYSE Arca Software Index and the Dow Jones Utility Index. Notably, shares of global power firm AES Corp. (AES) jumped by 5.5 percent on the day. The day's gain helped the stock to extend its recent gains and close at its best price in nearly nine months.

Meanwhile, railroad stocks saw some of the day's weakest outings, with the Dow Jones Railroad Index sliding 2.0 percent.

Dow Components

The majority of the Dow components finished in positive territory, helping the blue chip index to post a strong gain for the day.

One of the Dow's strongest performers was tech giant Hewlett Packard (HPQ), which rose by 3.6 percent. The day's gain lifted the stock to its best closing level in nearly six months.

Shares of Merck (MRK) also showed a strong upward move, advancing by 3.2 percent, extending their gains for the fourth straight session. With the move, the stock was able to finish at its highest price in nearly three months.

Additionally, shares of Dupont (DD) and Exxon Mobil (XOM) also turned in strong performances, rising by 2.5 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively. While DuPont extended its climb away from its worst closing price in three months, reached last Monday, Exxon Mobil continued its move away from a one month closing low set last Wednesday.

Alcoa (AA) was the only Dow component to retreat on the day, falling by 3 percent on the heels of a downgrade by FBR Capital. The broker lowered its rating on the stock from Market Perform to Underperform, citing an oversaturated aluminum market. The day's decline forced the stock to give back some of its recent gains.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region ended Monday's session on the downside. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed down 1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slid 0.4 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets closed notably higher, with the German DAX Index and French CAC 40 Index rising 2 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closed up 1.3 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries ended the day in positive territory after a choppy outing. The yield on the benchmark ten-year note closed at 3.492 percent, a drop of 1.4 basis points on the day.

Looking Ahead

Tuesday's trading is likely to be impacted by the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index, with an 18.75 percent decline in prices expected by economists. The data will be closely monitored amid continued concerns regarding the health of the housing market.

Further, the market will also focus on a report from the ISM Chicago on business activity in the Chicago area. Economists expect the June reading to come in at 39.0 compared to 34.9 in May. The reports will be released at 9:00 a.m. ET and 9:45 a.m. ET, respectively.

Consumer confidence data from the Conference Board is also likely to influence the day's trading, with the index expected to inch up to 55.3 in June from 54.9 the previous month. The report is scheduled to be released at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Some traders may also look to quarterly results from tax consulting service provider H & R Block (HRB) and Apollo Group (APOL), which released their earnings after the closing bell.

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