After five straight quarters of strong gains, the market rode a treadmill for the past 3 months -- lots of movement, but it ended up pretty much where it started. Still, stocks posted solid gains on Monday, helped by comments from Fed Chair Janet Yellen. She reassured investors, saying the Fed's bond-buying stimulus program is still needed, and would continue.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rallied 134 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) gained 14 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) rose 43 points. For the quarter, the Dow edged slightly lower, while the S&P and Nasdaq inched higher.
Microsoft (MSFT) led today's advance, gaining nearly 2 percent. The company's new CEO started to put his stamp on the company, naming new leaders at three of Microsoft's most important divisions. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%While the rest of the market has drifted, its stock is up more than 10 percent in the first quarter.
Other blue chip leaders include: IBM (IBM), United Technologies (UTX) and Visa (V), all of which were up more than 1 percent on the day.
Biotech stocks rebounded from a rough couple of weeks. Industry leader Amgen (AMGN) gained more than 2 percent after its new cholesterol drug proved effective in a clinical trial. And Biogen Idec (BIIB) gained 4 percent after the FDA approved its treatment for a type of hemophilia.
Other gainers in the sector: Alnylam (ALNY) rose 9 percent, Gilead (GILD) gained and Salix Pharmaceuticals (SLXP) both rose more than 3 percent.
But some of the other so-called momentum stocks continued to drift lower. Netflix (NFLX) lost 2 percent. It's now in the red for the year. Amazon.com (AMZN), Google (GOOG) and Tesla Motors (TSLA) all edged lower, but Facebook (FB) posted a gain. It slid 11 percent last week after making a $2 billion dollar acquisition of virtual-reality goggle maker Oculus.
Airline stocks took off. United (UAL) rose almost 4 percent, while American Airlines (AAL) and Delta Air Lines (DAL) both rose about 3.5 percent.
Elsewhere, Cal-Maine Foods (CALM), a leading marketer of eggs, jumped 9.5 percent as earnings topped expectations.
Panera Bread (PNRA) gained 1.5 percent as Wedbush Securities raised its rating to outperform.
And Micron Technologies (MU) jumped 8 percent ahead of earnings later this week.
What to Watch Tuesday:
Automakers release U.S. vehicle sales for March throughout the day.
The Commerce Department releases construction spending for February and the Institute for Supply Management releases its manufacturing index for March, both at 10 a.m. Eastern time.
General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra testifies about auto recalls during a hearing before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.