U.S. stocks traded sharply higher Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly surging more than 275 points, as investors cheered strong housing data ahead of the government’s jobs report for March, due out later this week. Market professionals will be eyeing the continuing Greek debt negotiations after Germany announced Monday that the eurozone would not provide further aid until Athens has submitted a more detailed reform plan.
In morning trading Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) soared 275 points, or more than 1.5 percent, to 17,984.95. The Standard & Poor's 500 (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) added 16.73 points, or 0.81 percent, to 2,077.75. The Nasdaq composite (INDEXSP:.INX) gained 42.21 points, or 0.86 percent, to 4,933.42.
This is an important week for the financial markets, not only because the first quarter comes to a close, but also because of potentially market-moving economic data coming out. Most notably, investors will be eyeing the U.S. employment situation Friday. Meanwhile, the political world moves toward important moments with the pending Iran nuclear deal and debt negotiations in Greece.
"The situation in Greece is far from resolved, and the market participants will be setting themselves up for the beginning of first-quarter earnings next week, what most believe will be lackluster at best," Keith Bliss, senior vice president and director of sales and marketing at Cuttone & Co. Inc., said in a research note Monday.
U.S. pending home sales, an indicator of future closed sales, leaped last month despite harsh winter weather, the National Association of Realtors said Monday. Its monthly index of pending sales jumped 3.1 percent in February from a month earlier, signaling that the hard winter failed to keep home buyers away. Sales in the Northeast fell 2.3 percent in February; however, sales in the region are 4.1 percent higher from a year earlier.
Separately, U.S. consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity, was flat last month as households instead boosted savings to their highest level in more than two years. Consumer spending edged up 0.1 percent in February after an unrevised 0.2 percent drop in January, the Commerce Department said Monday. Economists had expected consumer spending to increase 0.2 percent last month, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
Shares of UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH) gained more than 3 percent Monday to $122.04 after the health care company announced it is buying pharmacy benefits manager Catamaran Corp. (NASDAQ:CTRX) for $12.8 billion, or $61.50 per share, and combining it with its OptumRx unit. Following the announcement, shares of Catamaran soared more than 24 percent to $59.97 in morning trading.
Looking ahead on the economic calendar, most of the focus this week will be on the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for March. The report, due Friday, is expected to show that employers added 245,000 jobs in March, down from 295,000 in February, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged from 5.5 percent in February. Average hourly earnings are forecast to increase 0.2 percent and hours worked is expected to hold steady at 34.6 per week.
Oil prices traded lower Monday as West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices, dropped 1.33 percent Monday to $48.22 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the benchmark for global oil prices, fell 0.96 percent to $55.87 a barrel, for Feb. 15 delivery, on the London ICE Futures Exchange.
Here's the latest economic calendar for the week of March 30. All listed times are EDT.
- 8:30 a.m. -- Consumer Spending (February)
- 10 a.m. -- Pending Home Sales (February)
- 9 a.m. -- Case-Shiller home price index (February)
- 10 a.m. -- Consumer confidence (March)
- United Kingdom -- Gross Domestic Product (Q4)
- Germany -- Unemployment Rate
- 8:15 a.m. -- ADP Employment Report (March)
- 9:45 a.m. -- Markit PMI (March)
- 10 a.m. -- ISM (March)
- 10 a.m. -- Construction spending (February)
- TBA -- Motor Vehicle Sales (March)
- 8:30 a.m. -- Weekly jobless claims
- 8:30 a.m. -- Trade deficit (February)
- 10 a.m. -- Factory orders (February)
- Europe – European Central Bank Monetary Policy Meeting Accounts
- 8:30 a.m. – U.S. Nonfarm payrolls; Unemployment rate (March)