By CHRIS DIETERICH And MATT JARZEMSKY
Stocks started the week by chugging higher again, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average recorded its seventh straight advance.
The Dow climbed 50.22 points, or 0.3%, to 14447.29, closing near the session's high. The blue chips capped their longest streak of gains in a year and a fifth straight record.
"It was a modest move today, but in general, it seems like investors are underinvested and scrambling to get in as prices keep going up," said Paul Zemsky, chief investment officer of multiasset strategies at ING U.S. Investment Management, which oversees about $170 billion.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index added 5.04 points, or 0.3%, to 1556.22, less than nine points below its all-time high. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 8.51 points, or 0.3%, to 3252.87.
Gains were broad, with financial and health-care shares leading the way in the S&P 500. Boeing (BA)
There was little in the way of U.S. economic data or earnings reports to drive trading volumes. The number of shares changing hands on U.S. exchanges was the second lowest of the year.
"One thing that's remarkable is how methodical, unemotional and boring this bull run has been. It goes up a little every day," said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management, which manages $330 billion. "The plodding nature of the rally doesn't give you the sense that things have gone too far just yet."
In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 lost 0.1% in the wake of Fitch Ratings' downgrade of Italy late Friday. The ratings firm lowered Italy's credit rating by one notch to triple-B-plus, three steps above "junk" territory, citing concerns about political uncertainty at a time of economic weakness. On Monday, data showed Italy's gross domestic product contracted 0.9% in the fourth quarter. Italy's FTSE MIB index slid 0.7%, and the country's government bond prices fell, pushing yields higher.
The U.K.'s FTSE 100 advanced 0.3% to its highest closing level since December 2007.
In Asia, data showed industrial production and retail sales in China for the January and February period missed expectations. In addition, inflation in February rose 3.2% from January, the highest monthly increase since April, sparking worries of potential monetary tightening. China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.3%. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average rallied 0.5% to a 4Â½-year high.
Crude-oil prices gained 0.1%, to $92.06 a barrel, while gold added 0.1%, to $1,577.80 a troy ounce. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note remained unchanged at 2.056%. The dollar climbed against the yen but fell versus the euro.
In corporate news, Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS)
Genworth Financial (GNW)