Stocks close mixed, S&P continues quarterly wins

U.S. stocks closed mixed on Monday, with Dow lower and the S&P 500 showing the longest streak of quarterly gains since 1998, as investors sorted through data in trying to determine the direction of the U.S. economy.

Shares of General Motors fell almost 1 percent after the auto manufacturer said it was recalling another 7.6 million vehicles. American Apparel declined after the clothing retailer turned back a request by ousted Chief Executive Dov Charney for an investor meeting. Yahoo gained after Piper Jaffray upgraded the internet search engine to overweight from neutral.

“There are two things out of whack. One is the 2.9 percent GDP for the first quarter, which is a very misleading indicator for the economy,” David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Funds, said of last week’s shockingly weak read on the economy’s performance in the first three months of the year.

“The other thing that is really out of whack is the relatively low level of long-term interest rates. It is puzzling why anybody who is a willing buyer of Treasurys would want to buy them, as there are no general expectations of a slowdown in the economy,” said Kelly.

DJIA Dow Jones Industrial Average 16957.22
130.62 0.78%
S&P 500 S&P 500 Index 1973.74
13.51 0.69%
NASDAQ Nasdaq Composite Index 4459.58
51.40 1.17%

After turning positive, the Dow Jones Industrial Average wobbled between gains and losses, closing down 25.24 points, or 0.2 percent, at 16,826.60, up 0.7 percent for June and 2.4 percent for the quarter.

The S&P 500 rose above its June 20 record close during Monday’s session, but finished nearly 1 point lower at 1,960.23, leaving it up 1.9 percent for June and 4.7 percent for the quarter, its sixth consecutive quarterly gain.

The Nasdaq hit a 14-year high, and ended at 4,408.18, up 10.25 points, or 0.2 percent. It rose 3.9 percent in June and 5 percent for the quarter, its sixth straight quarterly gain.

For every two stocks that fell, three gained on the New York Stock Exchange, where nearly 792 million shares traded. Composite volume topped 3 billion.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for August delivery reversed higher, up $6.70, or 0.5 percent, to $1,326.70 an ounce; crude-oil futures for August delivery dropped 35 cents, or 033 percent, to $105.39 a barrel.

Copper futures rose 1 percent in two hours on Monday morning, the highest level in the last 16 weeks.

The dollar declined against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners and the 10-year Treasury yield used in figuring mortgage rates and other consumer loans fell 2 basis points to 2.52 percent.

Monday’s economic reports included better-than-expected numbers on the housing market and a worse-than-anticipated report on factory activity in the Chicago region.

“There is an anticipation that the second quarter is going to be strong because we didn’t have all the issues with the weather. I think the action in the short term is looking for confirmation” of the second-quarter rebound, said Matthew Kaufler, portfolio manager at Federated Investors.

Equities rose to session highs on Monday after the National Association of Realtors reported signed contracts to purchase existing homes surged 6.1 percent last month from April, the largest monthly gain since April 2010.

The report bolsters the view that the “housing pause was just that, a pause, and should grow for the rest of this year,” said Kelly at JPMorgan Funds.

Home builders rallied on the better-than-expected report, with D.R. Hortonand Lennar among those rising.

Equities had offered muted reaction to the Institute for Supply Management’s barometer for business activity in the Chicago region, which came at 62.6 for June from the prior month’s reading of 65.5.

Read More US Midwest business index dips in June

Tuesday brings reports on manufacturing and auto sales, while the government’s monthly jobs report comes Thursday, ahead of the long holiday weekend.

Read More Why there could be fireworks in the markets ahead of July 4

“Unemployment could come down to 6.2 percent,” said Kelly at JPMorgan Funds, who expects the data to show the economy added another roughly 200,000 jobs, but added that wage growth and the jobless rate would be the key components, particularly given any further gain in the former or decline in the latter could jump start interest rates.