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Stocks close higher as Street eyes data, Fed speakers; financials lead

U.S. stocks closed higher on Monday, following positive momentum from Europe, as investors looked to Federal Reserve speeches and economic data for signals on the timing of a rate hike.

"The first quarter is behind us, whether it's earnings or data," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities, noting several economic reports for April expected in the next few days. "It's all about the data that's fresh and forward-looking."

The S&P 500 ended higher, up 6.20 points, or 0.29 percent, at 2,114.49, a few points shy of its closing high of 2,117.69. Financials led seven sectors higher, with materials the greatest laggard.

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JPMorgan Chase gained 1.75 percent to lead the Dow Jones industrial average, which closed up 46.34 points, or 0.26 percent, at 18,070.40. The blue chip briefly gained 100 points in intraday trade and held above 18,000, about about one percent away from its closing high.

The U.S. 10-year Treasury yield gained to trade near 2.14 percent. The U.S. dollar edged higher, with the euro slightly lower near $1.11.

The Nasdaq Composite closed up 11.54 points, or 0.23 percent, at 5,016.93, with the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB) closing up 0.35 percent, just below its 50-day moving average.

"The focus this week is really on Friday's jobs report. Expectations are for a snapback in the second quarter," said Mark Luschini, chief investment officer at Janney Montgomery Scott.

"Any information we've had is good but not strong enough for the Fed to raise interest rates too soon," he said.

Ahead of Friday's important jobs report for the month of April, factory orders for March showed a gain of 2.1 percent, the biggest increase in eight months and above expectations of a 1.9 percent increase. However, the underlying trend remained weak against the backdrop of a strong dollar.

"I think stocks are taking their cue from Comcast (earnings) and factory orders," said Alan Skrainka, chief investment officer at Cornerstone Wealth Management. "The market is starting the week off on a positive note. No (major) news overseas."

The first of several central bank policymakers to speak this week, Chicago Fed's Charles Evans said that hiking interest rates does not seem appropriate until next year due to the weak first quarter. His address came at the annual meeting of the Columbus Economic Development Board.

At a separate event on job creation, San Francisco Fed President, John Williams, said some Americans were left behind in the U.S. economic recovery, which treated some better than others.

Stocks were little changed on the remarks and continued to trade moderately higher. The Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota is scheduled to speak on Tuesday.

"It's a market that still expects the Fed to push out the timing of the liftoff," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial. "It's a day when we had a rocky week last week. The markets overnight in the euro zone were up as well. We had positive momentum from there."

Asian and European shares closed higher on Monday, although U.K. and Japanese stock markets were closed for local holidays. Markets were boosted after tepid manufacturing data from China raised hopes that Beijing would unveil further stimulus measures to boost the economy.

"The market is moving up on momentum buying due to liquidity that's being added to global markets," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital.

Analysts also noted market optimism on potential for mergers and acquisitions. Most recently, seed company Monsanto made an offer to buy Switzerland's Syngenta, Bloomberg reported last week, citing sources.

"It seems like people are starting to focus on the acquisition piece of things," said Maris Ogg, president at Tower Bridge Advisors. While she would prefer to see more capital expenditure, she said the market seems to be shaking off any softness in earnings.

"The worst seems to be over... and the market seems to be taking mediocre news in stride," she said. "My guess would be maybe the impact of the dollar and lower energy prices is not as bad as people thought."

Earnings season continues, with EOG Resources and Tenet Healthcare among firms expected to report after the close.

Reporting before the bell, Comcast, the NBCUniversal parent earned 81 cents per share for the first quarter, seven cents above estimates, with revenue also above forecasts. Comcast also added $2.5 billion to its existing stock buyback program.

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Sysco, the no. 1 U.S. food distributor, reported a 2 percent fall in quarterly profit, hurt by a rise in meat and poultry prices, a strong dollar and higher expenses.

McDonald's closed down 1.7 percent after announcing plans to accelerate refranchising and divide its structure into four parts. Following the news, S&P downgraded the stock to "A-" from "A" while retaining a stable outlook.

Shares of oil frackers such as Pioneer Natural Resources and Whiting Petroleum declined or pared gains after Greenlight Capital's David Einhorn criticized the sector at the Sohn Investment Conference.

Macerich closed mildly lower after spiking more than 2 percent on a Wall Street Journal report that said the shopping mall operator settled a proxy fight with two activist hedge funds. The activists had criticized the firm for rejecting Simon Property's takeover bid.

Cisco Systems ended slightly higher after the firm said Chief Executive John Chambers would step down to become executive chairman and 17-year company veteran Chuck Robbins will become CEO, effective July 26.

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The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded near 13.

About three stocks advanced for two decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 637 million and a composite volume of nearly 3 billion in the close.

Crude oil futures settled down 22 cents, or 0.37 percent, at $58.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold futures settled up $12.30 to $1,186.80 an ounce.

Read MoreWhat matters to markets this week

U.S. stocks closed higher on Friday, recovering from a sharp selloff on Thursday, the last day of trading for April.

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com.

Reuters and CNBC's Katy Barnato and Peter Schacknow contributed to this report.

Monday

Earnings: Anadarko Petroleum, Concho Resources, DaVita, EOG Resources, Fidelity Natl. Fincl., Invensense, Sturm Ruger, Tenet Healthcare

Tuesday

Earnings: Disney, News Corp., Electronic Arts, Groupon, Mylan Labs, Archer Daniels Midland, Estee Lauder, Discovery Communications, Kellogg, NobleEnergy, TRW Automotive, Vulcan Materials, Devon Energy, LendingClub, PioneerNatural Resources, Plains All American, Allstate, HCA, DirecTV, UBS, Herbalife, Zuliliy, Weight Watchers, Newfield Exploration, SolarCity

8:30 a.m.: International trade

9:45 a.m.: Services PMI

10:00 a.m.: ISM nonmanufacturing

8:00 p.m.: Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota

Wednesday

Earnings: Tesla Motors, Marathon Oil, Sunoco Logistics, Transocean, TripAdvisor, A-B InBev, GlaxoSmithKline, Occidental Petroleum, Chesapeake Energy, HollyFrontier, Motorola Solutions, 3D Systems, SodaStream, Wendy's, Activision Blizzard, 21st Century Fox, Keurig Green Mountain, WholeFoods, Rayonier , WebMd

7:30 a.m.: Mortgage applications

8:15 a.m.: ADP private payrolls

8:30 a.m.: Productivity and costs

9:15 a.m.: Fed Chair Janet Yellen and IMF MD Christine Lagarde on panel

10:30 a.m.: DOE oil, gasoline inventories

1:15 p.m.: Kansas City Fed's Esther George on credit markets panel

1:30 p.m.: Atlanta Fed Dennis Lockhart on monetary policy

Thursday

Earnings: Alibaba, Orbiz, Time Inc, CBS, Monster Beverage, Zynga, Fortress Investment, SeaWorld, Regeneron, Siemens, Apache, ArcelorMittal, BTGroup, ING Group, Alcatel-Lucent, Norwegian Cruise Line, Nuance Communications, Nvidia, Molson Coors, Apollo Global Management, Elizabeth Arden, Cyber ArkSoftware, Tesoro, Teradata

8:30 a.m.: Weekly jobless claims

8:30 a.m.: PPI

Friday

Earnings: Toyota, JD.com, BioCryst Pharma, Liberty Media, AOL, Health Care Reit, NRG Energy, Sirona Dental Systems

8:30 a.m.: Employment report

10:00 a.m.: Wholesale trade

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