U.S. stocks closed more than 1 percent higher Monday, building on their best weekly gain of 2016, as oil prices climbed. (Tweet This)
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up about 228 points to end within 10 percent of its 52-week intraday high, or out of correction territory.
Earlier, the index briefly gained 272 points to temporarily top its 50-day moving average as shares of United Technologies spiked more than 6.5 percent following a CNBC report that the Dow component and Honeywell held merger talks recently. Shares of United Technologies held more than 4.5 percent higher in the close to contribute about 28 points to the Dow.
WTI futures for March delivery, which expired after the settle Monday, ended up $1.84, or 6.21 percent at $31.48 a barrel. The April contract settled up $1.64 at $33.39 a barrel.
The International Energy Agency said in its medium-term outlook Monday that U.S. shale oil production was expected to fall by 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) this year and another 200,000 bpd in 2017. The forecast added to last week's drop in U.S. oil rig count to their lowest level since December 2009, according to Reuters.
"Perhaps today's report would offer investors a little more comfort that the worst is behind us," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.
"Certainly the U.S. is the swing producer and seeing the rig count fall certainly leads to this belief that production would fall," he said.
OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri said at the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston that OPEC is willing to work with non-OPEC producers to find a solution for low oil prices.
Last week, Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to a production freeze at January levels if other producers participated.
Also helping gains in U.S. stocks Monday was further stabilization in China, where the yuan held steady overnight. The Shanghai composite jumped more than 2 percent to lead gains in Asian equities. European stocks closed more than 1.5 percent higher.
"Any time we get a stable night in China, (that) leads to calmness in Europe, and calmness in those two markets helps here," said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group.
Over the weekend, China's official Xinhua news agency said Xiao Gang, chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, had been succeeded by Liu Shiyu, chairman of the Agricultural Bank of China and a former deputy governor of the central bank.
The S&P 500 closed up 1.45 percent, within 10 percent of its 52-week intraday high, or out of correction, with energy and consumer discretionary leading advancers. The Nasdaq composite remained in correction territory, or more than 10 percent below its 52-week intraday high.
Materials and energy are the worst two S&P performers for the last 12 months. Gains in the sectors Monday led several analysts to attribute the rally to short covering.
"I don't think this environment's changed in the last week. I think it's sentiment-driven and short covering," said Jonathan Lamensdorf, managing director and portfolio manager at Highland Capital Management.
The rise in copper came after reports of increased Chinese imports last month, but Dane Davis, commodities research analyst at Barclays, attributed much of the gains in copper to a correlation with oil prices rather than fundamentals.
"(The correlation)'s become particularly strong over the last couple weeks," he said. "The lift in crude oil over $30 has resulted in a bullish sentiment and that bullish sentiment has lifted copper."
However, the gains in oil and other commodities supported a risk-on trade as Treasury yields rose and gold prices fell, snapping a three-day win streak.
"I think what's more encouraging is if you see the commodity complex surging that would be driven by a better impression of the global economy," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.
In U.S. economic news, the flash read on Markit Manufacturing PMI for February was 51.0, down from the final January print of 52.4 and hitting its lowest since October 2012.
Treasury yields held higher, with the at 0.75 percent and the 10-year yield at 1.76 percent.
The U.S. dollar index traded about 0.8 percent higher. The euro was near $1.10, its lowest against the dollar in nearly three weeks, and the yen at 112.80 yen against the greenback.
Pound sterling held a touch above session lows. Earlier, sterling fell below $1.4100 to its lowest in nearly seven years after popular London Mayor Boris Johnson said he would campaign for Britain to leave the European Union ahead of a June 23 referendum.
As of the close Monday, the Dow and S&P 500 were on pace to close higher for February. The Nasdaq composite was set for a third-straight month of declines, its longest monthly losing streak since 2011.
On Friday, the major U.S. averages ended the week up 2.5 percent or more, with the Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 posting their best week since the one ending Nov. 20. The Nasdaq composite outperformed, up nearly 4 percent for the week, its best since the one ending July 17.
The closed up 27.72 points, or 1.45 percent, at 1,945.50, with energy gaining 2.2 percent to lead all 10 sectors higher.
The Nasdaq composite closed up 66.18 points, or 1.47 percent, at 4,570.61.
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, fell below 20 to hit its lowest since Dec. 31.
About four stocks advanced for every decliner on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 1.0 billion and a composite volume of 4.0 billion.
Gold futures for April delivery settled $20.70 lower, at $1,210.10 an ounce.
—Reuters contributed to this report.
On tap this week:
Earnings: Home Depot, Bank of Montreal, JM Smuckers, Macy's, Norwegian Cruise Line, Toll Brothers, Angie's List, Cracker Barrel, Avis Budget, Jazz Pharma, Dreamworks Animation, Etsy, First Solar, Popeyes, WebMD Health
8:30 a.m. Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari
8:50 a.m. Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan
9 a.m. S&P/Case-Shiller home prices
9:50 a.m. Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi speaks at CERAWeek
10 a.m. Existing home sales; consumer confidence
1 p.m. $26 billion two-year note auction
8:30 p.m. Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer
Earnings: Lowe's, Chesapeake Energy, Mobileye, Target, TJX Cos., HP, L Brands, NetEase, Salesforce.com, Transocean
8 a.m. Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker
9:45 a.m. Services PMI
10 a.m. New home sales
10:30 a.m.: Oil inventories
1 p.m. $34 billion five-year notes
7 p.m. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard
G-20 finance ministers meet in Shanghai
Earnings: AB InBev, Bayer, Apache, Best Buy, Campbell Soup, Domino's Pizza, Kohl's, Chico's FAS, Sears Holdings, SeaWorld, Baidu, Autodesk, Gap, Intuit, Kraft Heinz, Herbalife, Live Nation Ent., Noodles & Co., Weight Watchers
8:15 a.m. Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart
8:30 a.m. Initial claims; durable goods
9 a.m. FHFA home prices
10:30 a.m.: Natural gas inventories
11 a.m.: Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index
12 p.m. San Francisco Fed President John Williams
1 p.m. $28 billion seven-year notes
G-20 meets in Shanghai
Earnings: J.C. Penney, Foot Locker, Sotheby's, Sempra Energy, AmericanTower, Centerpoint, Liberty Media, Telefonica, Rowan Cos
8:30 a.m. Real GDP Q4 (second reading); international trade
8:30 a.m.: Personal income, consumer spending
10 a.m. Consumer sentiment
Earnings: Berkshire Hathaway
*Planner subject to change.
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