U.S. stocks gain, pushing back near record levels

Last Updated May 4, 2015 6:00 PM EDT

NEW YORK - U.S. stocks gained Monday, lifting the market to near-record levels, as investors assessed corporate earnings. Stocks also got a boost from a report that showed factory orders rose in March for the first time since last summer.

A promise by China's leaders to shore up growth and hopes of progress in Greece's bailout talks with its creditors helped global stocks rally.

On Monday, the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 6 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 2,114, after earlier matching its record close of 2,117 reached on April 24. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 46 points, or 0.25 percent, ending at 18,070. The Nasdaq composite gained 12 points, or 0.2 percent, to finish at 5,017.

Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTSH), a technology consulting business, was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500 after it reported earnings that beat the expectations of Wall Street analysts and raised its earnings and sales outlook for the year. The stock jumped $3.64, or 6.1 percent, to $62.78.

Tyson Foods (TSN) was another company that climbed after reporting solid earnings. Its stock rose 60 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $41.09.

Average company earnings-per-share for S&P 500 companies are forecast to rise by 1.7 percent in the first quarter. While that pace of growth is slower than it was in the last quarter of 2014, it is better than analysts were expecting at the start of April, when they were forecasting a 3.1 percent slump in earnings.

"The earnings have been coming in better than expected," said Scott Wren, a senior global equity strategist at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute. He expects that analysts' consensus estimates for earnings for the rest of the year will start to edge higher in coming weeks.

Orders to U.S. factories rose in March for the first time since last July, breaking a long stretch of weakness in manufacturing. Orders increased 2.1 percent following seven monthly declines, the Commerce Department reported Monday. Also, orders in a key category that tracks business investment plans eked out a 0.1 percent rise. It was the first advance in the category since last August.

France's CAC-40 rose 0.7 percent to 5,081 and Germany's DAX added 1.4 percent to 11,619. U.K. markets were closed for a holiday.

Greece made progress with its creditors over the weekend on how to stave off bankruptcy, despite complaints in Athens that the International Monetary Fund is pushing the cash-strapped country too hard to implement labor reforms.

Greece must come up with a series of economic reforms and budget measures that are acceptable to creditors in order to secure the remaining money in its bailout fund. Without that money, Greece may run out of cash and decide to leave the euro.

The Chinese Communist Party's Politburo met last week and promised "forceful" measures to support economic growth, which slumped to 7 percent in the first quarter, the slowest since the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. The party's leadership called for increasing investment and streamlining the flow of money through the financial system.

The price of the 10-year Treasury note edged lower. The yield dropped to 2.13 percent from 2.12 percent on Friday. The euro gave up some of its recent gains, falling to $1.1139 from $1.1192. The dollar fell to 120.09 yen from 120.28 yen.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 25 cents to $58.90 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In other energy futures trading on the NYMEX:

- Wholesale gasoline fell 1.1 cents to close at $2.034 a gallon.

- Heating oil fell 0.3 cents to close at $1.979 a gallon.

- Natural gas rose 4.5 cents to close at $2.821 per 1,000 cubic feet.