U.S. Stocks Continue To Fluctuate In Afternoon Trading

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After showing a lack of direction early in the session, stocks have continued to fluctuate over the course of the trading day on Monday. The major averages have spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

The major averages have moved to the upside in recent trading and are currently posting modest gains. The Dow is up 88.36 points or 0.3 percent at 34,539.59, the Nasdaq is up 6.98 points or 0.1 percent at 13,358.06 and the S&P 500 is up 11.76 points or 0.3 percent at 4,404.35.

The choppy trading on Wall Street comes as traders seem reluctant to make significant moves ahead of the release of a slew of earnings news this week.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), IBM Corp. (IBM), Netflix (NFLX), Procter & Gamble (PG), Tesla (TSLA), American Express (AXP) and Verizon (VZ) are among the big-name companies due to report their quarterly results in the coming days.

Financial giant Bank of America (BAC) released its first quarter results before the start of today's trading, reporting earnings and revenue that exceeded analyst estimates.

Traders may also be looking ahead to the release of the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, which may shed additional light on the outlook for interest rates.

On the U.S. economic front, the National Association of Home Builders released a report showing a continued deterioration in U.S. homebuilder confidence in the month of April.

The report showed the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index fell to 77 in April from 79 in March, with the decrease matching economist estimates.

The housing market index declined for the fourth consecutive month, sliding to its lowest level since hitting 76 last September.

Sector News

Energy stocks have moved sharply higher over the course of the session, benefiting from a continued surge by the price of crude oil. Crude for May delivery is jumping $2.29 to $109.24 a barrel.

Reflecting the strength in the energy sector, the Philadelphia Oil Service Index is up by 2.4 percent, the NYSE Arca Oil Index is up by 2.1 percent and the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index is up by 1.9 percent.

Semiconductor stocks are also seeing significant strength following recent weakness, with the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index climbing by 2.2 percent after ending the previous session at an eleven-month closing low.

On the other hand, substantial weakness remains visible among biotechnology stocks, as reflected by the 2.8 percent slump by the NYSE Arca Biotechnology Index.

Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR) is posting a steep loss after the biopharmaceutical company halted the global clinical development program for its cancer drug bempegaldesleukin in combination with Bristol Myers Squibb's (BMY) Opdivo.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Monday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index slumped by 1.1 percent, while China's Shanghai Composite Index fell by 0.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets remain closed today for Easter Monday.

In the bond market, treasuries have moved to the downside over the course of the session. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 2.9 basis points at 2.857 percent.

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