Stocks end 'tough month' in the black

U.S. stock market dow s&p 500Click the chart for more market data. By Annalyn Censky, staff reporter


NEW YORK(CNNMoney) -- Despite a slight step back last week, stocks closed out February on an upbeat note, posting their third straight month of gains.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) rose 96 points, or 0.8%, on Monday; the S&P 500 (SPX) rose 3 points, or 0.2%; the Nasdaq (COMP) was flat for the day.

Overall, all three major indexes were up nearly 3% during the month and have risen more than 5% since the beginning of the year.

"All being said, the market did very well in February," said Rich Ilczyszyn, market strategist with futures broker Lind-Waldock.

But that doesn't mean the ride wasn't a bumpy one. While stocks started February off strong thanks to solid earnings reports, uprisings in the Middle East sent oil prices skyrocketing and stocks falling last week.

"It's really been kind of a tough month," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of Harris Private Bank in Chicago. "I'm hopeful that as long as consumers believe higher energy prices are temporary, I think we can work our way through this."

Investors are looking ahead to the government's monthly payroll report on Friday, which will reveal how many jobs were created in February.

Economy: A report showing that personal incomes climbed 1% in January got investors in an upbeat mood early in the day, even though most of that increase was due to a 2% payroll tax holiday passed by legislators in late 2010.

"We saw a knee-jerk reaction to that headline," Ablin said. "I'm surprised that number wasn't already baked into the market."

Later, investors also welcomed a report on Chicago-area manufacturing showing that sector accelerated at a faster-than-expected pace in February. The Chicago PMI rose to 71.2 from 68.8 in January, although economists had expected a slight decline.

A report on the housing market came in slightly better than expected, showing pending home sales fell 2.8% instead of the deeper 3.2% fall economists had been forecasting.

Investors remain generally unfazed by a potential shutdown of the federal government, which could occur if Congress fails to approve a spending bill before midnight Friday.

Companies: Humana (HUM, Fortune 500) shares rose 3.9% after the company announced the Department of Defense awarded the health insurer a major contract, covering military personnel and their families in the South.

UnitedHealth Group (UNH, Fortune 500) had previously held the contract, and its shares were flat Monday.

Kenneth Cole Productions (KCP) shares tumbled 7% Monday, after the high-end clothing company announced its CEO Jill Granoff is stepping down, effective immediately. The company posted a loss of $2.7 million in the fourth quarter, an improvement over a $52 million loss in the year-ago quarter.

The fashion house's namesake had recently come under fire in the social media sphere, for tweeting a promotion that joked about protests in Egypt.

Shares of Overstock.com (OSTK) soared 9%, after the online retailer announced earnings that beat Wall Street estimates.

3M (MMM, Fortune 500) gained 2.2%, after a Barrons article reported the company will launch a "blizzard" of new products and soon see rising sales in international markets. Over the weekend, 3M CEO George Buckley slammed President Obama as "anti-business," calling his policies "Robin Hood-esque."

Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500) shares fell more than 2.2%, after UBS downgraded its stock to "neutral."

World markets: European stocks ended the day mixed. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.1%, the DAX in Germany ticked up 1.2% and France's CAC 40 edged up 1.3%.

Asian markets ended the session higher. The Shanghai Composite added 0.9%, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 1.4% and Japan's Nikkei rose 0.9%.

Currencies and commodities: The greenback fell against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.

Oil for April delivery slipped 91 cents to settle at $96.97 a barrel.

Gold futures for April delivery rose 60 cents to settle at $1,409.90 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury rose, pushing the yield down to 3.43% from 3.59% late Friday.  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.73%3.76%
15 yr fixed2.93%2.96%
5/1 ARM3.03%3.08%
30 yr refi3.80%3.83%
15 yr refi3.01%3.04%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 18,034.93 208.63 1.17%
Nasdaq 4,994.60 62.79 1.27%
S&P 500 2,100.40 19.22 0.92%
Treasuries 1.90 0.00 0.00%
Data as of 8:29am ET
Company Price Change % Change
General Electric Co 27.02 -0.23 -0.84%
Bank of America Corp... 15.57 0.01 0.06%
Apple Inc 127.60 2.84 2.28%
Microsoft Corp 42.90 1.29 3.10%
Facebook Inc 83.09 0.00 0.00%
Data as of Apr 20

Sections

The anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by Chinese President Xi Jinping has produced some astonishing examples of official wrongdoing. More

Jen Glantz is carving out a piece of the wedding industry: as a professional bridesmaid. Here's a look at what that entails. More

Fliers report higher satisfaction levels when it comes to flying, but Spirit Airlines ranks lowest on the American Customer Satisfaction Index Travel Report 2015. More