By Anora Mahmudova, MarketWatch
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — U.S. stocks finished Monday with strong gains as investors shrugged off the narrow scope of EU and U.S. sanctions following the vote in Crimea in favor of leaving Ukraine.
Investors instead focused on better-than-expected economic data, including industrial production and manufacturing activity in the New York region. However, stocks rose amid the lowest trading volumes this year.
The S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.94% ended the day 17.70 points, or 1%, higher at 1,858.83, finishing above a technical level of 1,850. Industrials and technology stocks lead broad-based gains. The benchmark index turned positive for the year.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.04% gained 181.55 points, or 1.1%, to 16,247.22, rising for the first time in six sessions. All 30 members of the blue-chip index rose on Monday.
The Nasdaq Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -2.13% finished the day 34.55 points, or 0.8%, higher at 4,279.95.
“Markets had discounted the vote in Crimea, but they also expected a much harsher reaction from the Western governments,” said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial.
“Angela Merkel’s comment last week led the market to believe that sanctions would be more significant. As sanctions turned out to be minimal, markets quickly moved on and were able to focus on economic data, which were good,” she added.
A batch of economic reports released before and after the market opened showed data that was slightly better than expected. Industrial production in February grew at the fastest monthly rate in six months, bouncing back after a weather-addled start to the year. An index of manufacturing conditions in the New York region showed modest improvement in March after a sharp drop in the prior month.
Separately, a gauge of confidence among home builders ticked up in March, but remained close to the lowest level since May and signaled that builders, generally, are pessimistic about sales trends, according to data released Monday.
Later this week, investors will also get a Federal Open Market Committee meeting.
Markets sold off last week as fears over the events in Ukraine forced investors to seek safe havens. However, once the outcome of the vote was made public, stock markets around the globe rose. After the overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to break away from Ukraine on Sunday, Russia took another step to annexing the region despite the sanctions.
Global stock markets, including the U.S. market shrugged off sanctions by the Western government in the wake of the vote in Crimea.
The EU ministers imposed visa bans on 21 Russian officials and froze assets, according the Wall Street Journal citing sources, while the White House followed suit, targeting President Vladimir Putin’s closest advisers and other top Russian policy makers.
Among individual stocks, Yahoo shares rose 4%. The company owns a 24% stake in Alibaba, which is reportedly getting ready for an initial public offering in New York. At the same time, Alibaba’s smartphone-payment system has been blocked by China because of potential consumer risks.