Stock Market Today: April Set to Continue 2013 Winning Streak

U.S. equities followed Europe's lead and headed higher when the stock market today (Monday) opened.

Wall Street's mood was lifted after Enrico Letta was sworn in as Italy's prime minister, ending weeks of political gridlock in the ailing European nation. The news also propelled Italian stocks up more than 1%.

Shortly before noon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 68.55 points, or 0.47%, at 14,781.10. The Standard and Poor's 500 Index was higher by 8.59, or 0.54%, at 1,590.83. The Nasdaq climbed 26.72, or 0.81% at 3,305.98.

Another lift to the stock market today came from a report on March consumer spending. The read was 2%, much better than and 0.1% rise economists had expected and up from a 0.7% gain in February and a 0.4% advance in January.

With just two more trading sessions left in the month, U.S. stocks are set to end April with gains. That would mark the fourth consecutive positive month for equities.

But it's about that time when the familiar spring swoon weighs on stocks in the near term.

According to data from Bespoke Investment Group, over the past 30 years, an investor who bought the S&P 500 Index every Oct. 31 and sold the following April 30 would have reaped a 898% gain. In contrast, buying every April 30 and selling every late October would have returned just 56%.

This Week's Stock Market

The week ahead is busy with earnings, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting and Friday's crucial April employment report.

No surprises are expected when the Fed concludes its two-day meeting on Wednesday. The consensus is the central bank will continue with its $85 billion a month asset purchases and keep interest rates near zero. No press conference will follow this time around.

"I don't think (Fed officials) have got enough data since the last meeting to really justify changing policy. I really don't think they're going to look at slowing the pace of purchases until probably September," Brian Jacobsen, chief portfolio strategist at Wells Fargo Funds Management told Reuters.

Friday's April jobs report is for a return to the recent trend of non-payroll gains of 150,000 after a weak 88,000 increase in March. The unemployment rate is projected to remain at 7.6%.

Some notable earnings include Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) and Valero Energy Corp (NYSE: VLO) on Tuesday, Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) on Wednesday, and American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) and LinkedIn Corp. (Nasdaq: LNKD) on Thursday.

The Biggest Movers in the Stock Market Today

  • J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) shares got a boost after the beleaguered retailer reported it had secured a $1.75 billion loan from Goldman Sachs Group Inc (NYSE: GS). Shares, up 1.47% at $17.28, were also lifted by a New York Post report that "at least" two major hedge funds have taken considerable positions in Penney's, with one stake worth some $10 billion.
  • Loews Corp. (NYSE: L) shares fell 0.56% after the conglomerate said its quarterly earnings slumped 34% amid a higher impairment charge and flat profits from its Cna Financial Corp. unit (NYSE: CNA) down 1.62%.
  • J.P. Morgan Chase &Co. (NYSE: JPM) shares were little changed after it was announced Sunday that another key executive is leaving the largest U.S. bank. Co-COO Frank Bisignano is exiting to become CEO of payments processor First Data. His departure is latest in the string of resignations in the wake of JPM's 2012 $6 billion London Whale trading debacle.
  • Research in Motion Ltd. (Nasadaq: BBRY) jumped 2.46% after The Guardian reported the handset maker's new BB-Q10 smartphone is the company's "fastest-selling ever." Despite little advertising in the U.K., initial stock of the Q10 sold out in countrywide stores within a few hours.
  • Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE: HLF) is expected to post Q1 earnings of $1.07 a share when it reports after the close Monday. The numbers will be closely watched since the stock is at the center of a heated fight between hedge fund managers and activist investors Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman. Icahn has amassed a 15% stake in the company. Meanwhile Ackman, who claims HLF is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme, has a sizable short position.

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