Commodities lift Wall St; Verizon, Apple up late

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Monday as miners and energy companies advanced on dollar weakness and investors bought recent high fliers as the quarter’s end approached.

The dollar's decline boosted commodities prices, including crude oil. Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N was up 1.1 percent to $67.30 and the S&P energy index .GSPE rose 1.8 percent.

Major manufacturers and industrials, the quarter's top-performing sector, also fared well, with Boeing Co BA.N, up 2.1 percent and Caterpillar Inc CAT.N up 1.7 percent. They were both the Dow's top boosts. The S&P industrials index .GSPI has risen 13 percent so far in the first quarter.

But overall volume was light at the start of a holiday-shortened week that will cap the S&P 500's .SPX fourth straight positive quarter. Although the underlying tone was positive, slippage in financial shares, including a 3.3 percent drop by Citigroup C.N, curbed a broader market advance.

“It’s kind of a slow day. The move today is being led by energy and materials, and we’re seeing commodities markets bounce. That is helping to push things higher,” said Mike O’Rourke, chief market strategist at brokerage BTIG LLC in New York.

Slippage in the dollar underpinned the advance in commodities as the dollar index .DXY slipped 0.5 percent as the euro strengthened on news of another successful bond sale by debt-laden Greece.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 45.50 points, or 0.42 percent, to 10,895.86 -- it's highest close since September 2008. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX climbed 6.63 points, or 0.57 percent, to 1,173.22. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC jumped 9.23 points, or 0.39 percent, to 2,404.36.

U.S. equity markets will be closed on Friday in observance of the Good Friday holiday.

The benchmark S&P 500 as a whole is up 5.2 percent for the quarter thus far, compared with the fourth quarter’s gain of 5.5 percent. The S&P 500 is up 73.4 percent since bottoming in March 2009.

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, March 12, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

On Nasdaq, Apple Inc AAPL.O shares were a top boost, ending at a record $232.39 after the iPhone maker said shoppers can buy its newest portable iPad computer this weekend at Apple and Best Buy BBY.N stores. Best Buy is the largest U.S. electronics retailer.

After the bell there was more news on Apple as the Wall Street Journal reported that the company was developing a new iPhone for Verizon Wireless, sparking an after-hours run-up in the shares of Apple and Verizon Communications Inc VZ.N.

Apple shares rose more than 1 percent to $235.44 after the closing bell, while Verizon, a Dow component, jumped almost 4 percent to $31.62. Both could be active in Tuesday’s session.

The Dow is up 4.5 percent for the quarter so far, down from gains of 7.4 percent in previous quarter, while the Nasdaq is on track for a 6 percent gain this quarter versus an increase of 6.9 percent in the fourth quarter.

Money managers typically scour the market for high fliers close to quarter-end to spruce up portfolios by selling laggards in a practice known as “window dressing.”

“It’s not a bad way to start a holiday-shortened week,” said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co in Lake Oswego, Oregon. “What we’re seeing is some quarter-end rebalancing by institutional portfolio managers.”

Among decliners, Citigroup Inc C.N fell 3.02 percent to $4.18 after the U.S. Treasury announced a plan to sell the 7.7 billion shares of the bank it owns over the course of this year. That sparked some profit-taking after the stock's recent run-up.

The KBW bank index .BKX slipped 0.3 percent.

In economic news, U.S. consumer spending rose as expected in February for a fifth straight month, while stagnant incomes pushed savings to their lowest level since October 2008, the government said.

On Friday, the government will release its monthly non-farm payrolls report, which analysts expect will show a turnaround in new jobs added by the U.S. labor market in March.

About 7.49 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, below last year’s estimated daily average of 9.65 billion.

Advancing stocks on the New York Stock Exchange beat decliners by a ratio of about 9 to 4, while on Nasdaq about seven stocks rose for every five that fell.

Additional reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; editing by Kenneth Barry