The stock market closed just short of a record on Monday as investors assessed some positive earnings reports.
Cognizant Technology Solutions, a technology consulting business, was the biggest gainer in the Standard & Poor's 500 index after it reported earnings that beat the expectations of Wall Street analysts and raised its outlook for earnings and sales for the year. Tyson Foods, the maker of Jimmy Dean sausage products, was another company whose stock gained after posting strong earnings.
Corporate earnings for the first quarter have surpassed analysts' expectations, growing slightly rather than contracting, as had been forecast. That's helping boost demand for stocks, keeping alive a bull market that is now in its seventh year.
“Earnings haven't been as bad as people were expecting … the picture isn't too bad,” said Sean Lynch, Co-Head of Global Equity Strategy for Wells Fargo Investment Institute.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 6.20 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,114.49, within three points of its all-time high reached on April 24. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 46.34 points, or 0.3 percent, to 18,070.40. The Nasdaq composite gained 11.54 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,016.93.
Stocks also got a lift from the first gain in factory orders since last summer.
Orders rose in March for the first time since last July, breaking a long stretch of weakness in manufacturing. The increase of 2.1 percent followed seven monthly declines, the Commerce Department reported Monday. Also, orders in a key category that tracks business investment plans eked out a 0.1 percent rise. It was the first advance in the category since last August.
The most closely watched piece of economic news this week will come out on Friday, when the government releases its monthly jobs report. Investors follow the survey closely because they believe it will give them insight into when the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates.
Fed policy makers have heled their benchmark interest rate close to zero since 2008. Most investors expect that they will refrain from raising rates until the second half of the year at the earliest, to allow the economy more time to strengthen.
Although the economy slowed in the first three months of the year, companies have still managed to continue to increase their earnings.
Average earnings-per-share for S&P 500 companies are forecast to rise by 1.7 percent in the first quarter, according to data from S&P Capital IQ. While the pace of growth has slowed from the final quarter of 2014, it is a much better performance than analysts were expecting at the start of April. At that time analysts were predicting a slump of 3.1 percent.
On Monday, Cognizant Technology Solutions beat Wall Street analysts' forecasts and raised its earnings and sales outlook for the year. The stock climbed $3.64, or 6.2 percent, to $62.78.
Tyson Foods rose 60 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $41.09 after its earnings were better than analysts predicted.
In bond trading, prices edged lower.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves in the opposite direction to its price, climbed 2.14 percent from 2.12 percent on Friday.
Gold rose $12.30, or 1 percent, to $1,186.80 an ounce. Silver climbed 30.6 cents, or 1.9 percent, $16.44 an ounce and copper fell a penny $2.92 a pound.
In energy trading, oil slipped slightly. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 22 cents to close at $58.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude fell a penny to close at $66.45 a barrel in London.
The euro gave up some of its recent gains, falling to $1.1148 from $1.1192. The dollar fell to 120.13 yen from 120.28 yen.
In other energy futures trading on the NYMEX:
— Wholesale gasoline fell 1.1 cents to close at $2.034 a gallon.
— Heating oil fell 0.3 cents to close at $1.979 a gallon.
— Natural gas rose 4.5 cents to close at $2.821 per 1,000 cubic feet.