Materials stocks got a boost from Citigroup, which raised its price targets for several steel and coal companies, saying international demand will support higher prices for the sector.Citi boosted US Steel's price target to $60 a share from $57, Freeport McMoran's to $60 a share from $59, and Cliffs Natural Resources to $108 a share from $87. The brokerage also lifted the stocks of coal companies, including Patriot Coal, Arch Coal and Peabody Energy.
Elsewhere, Wal-Mart's shares were under pressure after JPMorgan became the latest brokerage to downgrade the big-box retailer. JPMorgan lowered Wal-Mart's rating to "neutral" from "overweight," and cut its price target to $54 a share from $59. The brokerage said the deterioration in the company's same stores sales results could last for years and that its response to heightened competition has fallen short.
Nokia fell after news the wireless handset maker has entered into a partnership with Microsoft. Also, JPMorgan downgraded the company on Monday to "underweight" from "overweight."
Also Clorox shares fell after UBS cut the consumer products company's stock to "neutral" from "buy" by UBS, and to "underperform" from "neutral" by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Clorox had soared Friday after news activist investor Carl Icahn owns about 9 percent of the company's shares.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters fell after news reports over the weekend that rival Starbucks may soon offer a single-serve product to compete in a niche that had been dominated by Green Mountain. Cannacord Genuity believes Starbucks and Green Mountain are likely to parnter in creating a new technology for the Keurig brewing systems.
In earnings news, MGM Resorts sank after reporting a loss in the fourth quarter that was still less than the loss reported a year ago. Marriott International traded flat ahead of reporting earnings after-the-bell on Monday.
Earnings expected to take center-stage later this week include Dell , which will release quarterly figures after the bell on Tuesday, while Deere will report before Wednesday’s opening bell.
In merger and acquisition news, General Electric will buy the well support division of British energy services firm John Wood Group for about $2.8 billion. General Electric owns a stake in CNBC's parent company, NBC Universal.
Also, private equity company Clayton Dubilier & Rice was close to buying Emergency Medical Servicesand EchoStarhas agreed to buyHughes Communications for about $1.33 billion, excluding debt, a move that will boost the broadband capabilities of the communication equipment provider.
Seahawk Drilling plunged after news Hercules Offshore has agreed to buy off-shore drilling rigs and related assets from its rival for $100 million in cash and stock.
Some of the biggest financial policymakers appear before Congress this week, with the highest-profile event on Thursday when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies before the Senate Banking Committee.
The panel will also hear from the heads of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
In Europe, Italy sold 5.2 billion euros in government bonds on Monday morning in an auction analysts said received solid demand.
Meanwhile, European shares closed at a 29-month high, led by mining stocks. The FTSEurofirst300 index rose 0.3 percent.
Coming Up Next Week:
MONDAY: NY Fed President speaks; earnings after-the-bell from Marriott.
TUESDAY: Retail sales, Empire state manufacturing survey, import & export prices, Treasury international capital, business inventories, housing market index, Cleveland Fed President speaks, Dodd-Frank hearing, Geithner testifies before U.S. House, Fannie/Freddie reform hearing, credit-card default rates reported, 13-F filings due; earnings before-the-bell from Barclays; earnings after-the-bell from Dell and Tesla.
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications, housing starts, PPI, industrial production, House hearing on FCIC report, oil inventories, FOMC minutes; earnings before-the-bell from Comcast; earnings after-the-bell from CBS, NetApp and Nvidia.
THURSDAY: Weekly jobless claims, CPI, leading indicators, Philadelphia Fed survey, Chicago Fed President speaks, money supply; earnings before-the-bell from Barrick Gold, AngloGold and Nordstrom.
FRIDAY: Earnings before-the-bell from Campbell Soup.
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