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Benchmarks finished in the green following a sharp decline in the previous week propelled by gains in the energy and the materials sectors. In the previous week, the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 had witnessed their worst drop since November due to discouraging international and national reports. Meanwhile, existing home sales declined in the month of March.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) gained 0.1% to close the day at 14,567.17. The S&P 500 added 0.5% to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1,562.50. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index increased 0.9% to end at 3,233.55. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) declined 3.9% to settle at 14.39. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 5.6 billion shares, significantly higher than this year daily average of 6.4 billion shares. Advancing stocks outnumbered the decliners. For the 58% that advanced, 38% declined.

Heavy machinery maker Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) reported first-quarter results on Monday. The company’s earnings came in below the Street’s estimates. Caterpillar’s earnings tumbled 45% in the first-quarter from the year ago period due to a slowdown in the mining business. The company also lowered its 2013 revenue and earnings outlook. Sales of Caterpillar branded mining machines including trucks and bulldozers will decrease by half in 2013. Despite a dismal outlook, shares gained 2.8% after the company said a slowdown in spending by mining companies was temporary.

Shares of Halliburton Company (NYSE:HAL) increased by 5.6% after the company announced first-quarter results. The company’s earnings and revenue both beat the Street’s estimates. Halliburton quarterly results have now beaten the Street’s estimates for the nineteen quarter in a row. Thomson Reuters has revised its growth estimate for earnings of S&P 500 companies to 2.2% from the beginning of the month estimate of 1.5%. Technology bellwether Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is scheduled to report its quarterly results on Tuesday.

According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales declined in March. The report revealed that existing home sales decreased 0.6% in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.92 million from February’s revised figure of 4.95 million. This was contrary to the consensus estimate of an increase to 5.02 million. NAR chief economist, Lawrence Yun said demand has exceeded supply. He also said: “Buyer traffic is 25 percent above a year ago when we were already seeing notable gains in shopping activity.”

According to CNBC, activist investor ValueAct Capital has acquired a $2 billion stake Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT). The company’s shares climbed 3.6% following this development. Microsoft’s share price has increased 16% in 2013 till Monday.   

The energy sector had a good run yesterday and was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups. The Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) gained 1.1%. Stocks such as Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM), Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX), Suncor Energy Inc. (USA) (NYSE:SU), Marathon Oil Corporation (NYSE:MRO) and Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (NYSE:APC) increased 0.7%, 0.6%, 1.8%, 1.8% and 1.3%, respectively.

The utilities sector was the only loser among the S&P 500 industry groups and the Utilities SPDR (XLU) lost 0.1%. Stocks such as Duke Energy Corp (NYSE:DUK), Dominion Resources, Inc. (NYSE:D), NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE), The Southern Company (NYSE:SO) and PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG) lost 0.1%, 0.2%, 0.2%, 0.1% and 1.8%, respectively.

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