After Market: First Quarter of 2014 Was a Road to Nowhere

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. (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.

7 Tax Tips for Investors
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After Market: First Quarter of 2014 Was a Road to Nowhere
The 1099 forms you received from brokerages and other financial institutions might not be the last ones they send. It's common for them to issue corrected versions a little later. Consider getting your tax return ready to go, then waiting until close to April 15 before submitting it. That way, you can incorporate any last-minute changes and avoid having to file an amended return.
Pay attention to when you sell any holding, because the capital gains tax rates differ for long-term and short-term holdings. Short-term capital gains are taxed at your ordinary income tax rate, which could top 30 percent. Long-term gains (those held for more than a year) get preferential rates, which are zero percent for those in low-income brackets and 15 percent for most of us.
If you own underwater stocks, consider selling them for a loss. You can use those losses to offset gains from other sales, reducing your taxes owed. You can always buy back the asset later, if you still believe in it -- just be sure to wait for 31 days to pass, to observe the "wash sale rule."
If you're planning to sell one or more holdings that will give you a really big gain, submit an amended W-4 form to increase your withholding, or send the IRS an estimated tax payment. Underpaying your taxes significantly during the year can lead to a penalty at tax time. You may be protected by a "safe harbor" provision, though, which can save you from having to jump through those hoops.
If you're planning to buy shares of a mutual fund, determine when it will distribute its dividends. Many funds do so near the end of the year, and when that happens, the fund's share price will drop by the amount of the distribution -- which is taxable to shareholders. It's better to just wait until after that payout to buy in.
Mutual funds with high turnover ratios (reflecting a lot of buying and selling in a fund) have expenses for these trades. It's worth favoring funds with low turnover ratios, especially index funds and index-tracking ETFs, which simply hold onto the mix of securities in a given index, without a lot of trading activity. (Index funds generally outperform their higher-turnover counterparts, too.)
Boost the power of your Individual Retirement Accounts by making your annual contributions early in the year, giving the funds more time to grow. Over decades, it can make a significant difference.
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