Meanwhile, Pepper expects the market to rally “at least another 10 to 15 percent” by year-end based on strong fundamentals and improved market confidence, though she warned there will be some pullbacks along the way.
Health care stocks, one of the biggest underperformers of the broader market this year, propelled the market higher as the Supreme Court hears argumentson the 2-year old U.S. health care overhaul law.
While an actual ruling isn’t expected until June, analysts project the court will uphold the law, which will help boost the sector, especially hospital stocks such as HCA Holdings and Tenet Healthcare .
Other health care stocks such as Edward Lifesciences and Medtronic also rallied.
Techs also fueled the gains, with Dell trading higher after Brean Murray added the firm to its "long-term conviction" list.
A handful of Internet companies were also performing well including Baidu , Amazon.com and Ebay .
Yahoo appointed three new independent directorsas it prepares for a proxy fight with activist hedge fund investor Daniel Loeb.
AmEx climbed after the credit-card provider announced a 11 percent dividend increase.
Lions Gate Entertainment jumped after the movie "The Hunger Games" made a $214 million global debut, marking Hollywood's third-highest opening. In addition, Stifel raised its price target on the firm to $19 from $17.5 and Caris boosted its rating to "average" from "below average."
Safeway was the biggest laggard on the S&P 500 after Credit Suisse downgraded the supermarket chain to "neutral" from "outperform," citing a larger-than-expected underfunded pension liability.
BATS Global Markets CEO Joe Ratterman apologized over the weekendfor a system failure that caused the exchange operator to trade erroneously for less than a penny on its market debut Friday and resulted in Apple's shares being temporarily halted. The company's withdrawn initial public offering has been put on hold "for the foreseeable future."
On the economic front, pending home sales unexpectedly declined0.5 percent to 96.5 in February, according to the National Association of Realtors. Still, the index was up solidly from the the same period a year ago.
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Coming Up This Week:
TUESDAY: S&P Case-Shiller home price index, consumer confidence, 2-yr note auction, Fed's Rosengren speaks; Earnings from Lennar, Walgreen
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage apps, durable goods orders, oil inventories, 5-yr note auction, Fed's Bullard speaks, FDA discusses obesity drugs
THURSDAY: GDP, jobless claims, corporate profits, Fed's Plosser speaks, 7-yr note auction, farm prices, Fed's Lacker speaks; Earnings from Best Buy, Research In Motion
FRIDAY: Personal income & outlays, Chicago PMI, consumer sentiment, Stringer's last day as Sony CEO
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