Energy shares led stocks higher on Monday as economic data gave support to investors' bets the economy is improving.

On the first trading day after government data showed the economy added the largest number of jobs in three years, separate reports showed services -- the U.S. economy's largest segment -- grew above expectations in March and pending homes sales accelerated more than anticipated in February.

The energy sector <.GSPE>, up 1.3 percent, led the S&P 500's gains as crude oil rose above $86 a barrel to its highest since October 2008 on bets that demand will rise as the economy continues to recover.

Noble Energy Inc jumped 2.8 percent to $77.41 and Halliburton Co gained 2.8 percent to $31.61.

The economic data was generally positive. Some of these numbers are indicating that our economic progress may be slow, but it is progress, said Tom Schrader, managing director of U.S. equity trading at Stifel Nicolaus in Baltimore.

It would be much more convincing if we had volume behind this move, but the fact that every sector is up (on the S&P) shows the breadth of the strength in the market.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> added 50.10 points, or 0.46 percent, to 10,977.17. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 9.08 points, or 0.77 percent, to 1,187.18. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> rose 23.65 points, or 0.98 percent, to 2,426.23

The main U.S. stock indexes closed their fifth week of gains running last Thursday and a fourth straight positive quarter on Wednesday.

Home sales data helped lift home builders' stocks, with the PHLX housing index <.HGX> up 1.9 percent. The index was buoyed by shares of PulteGroup Inc

, up 2.7 percent at $11.42, and Masco Corp , up 2.3 percent at $16.17.

Apple Inc shares gained 0.5 percent to $237.10 after its iPad device hit stores on Saturday. Apple said it sold more than 300,000 iPads on the first day, and there were more than 1 million downloads from its applications online store.

Washington Post Co shares shot up 8.7 percent to $483.59 after newspaper Barron's said in its April 5th edition the U.S. media company could be the most undervalued in its sector, and the stock could be worth double where it trades now.

In the latest snapshot of the economy, the Institute for Supply Management said its services index jumped to 55.4, its strongest reading since May 2006, from 53.0 in February.

The National Association of Realtors monthly index of pending sales of existing U.S. homes shot up 8.2 percent in February, when a flat reading was expected.

Nonfarm payrolls gained 162,000 jobs in March, Friday's report showed. That was below consensus, and many of the jobs were temporary, but more private-sector hiring was seen as further evidence the economy is on the mend. The U.S. stock market was closed on Friday for the Good Friday holiday.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Jan Paschal)