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Stocks climb amid pledge to balance trade

Stocks rose Monday after world finance leaders pledged to better balance global trade.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Stocks rose Monday after world finance leaders pledged to better balance global trade.

But with no concrete plans in place to avoid a currency war in the future, the dollar resumed its fall Monday. The weaker dollar is helping drive stocks and commodities higher as the cheaper currency makes them more attractive investments.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose nearly 65 points in afternoon trading. The Dow is again approaching its highest closing level of the year. Stocks extended their gains slightly after a report showed a bigger-than-expected jump in sales of existing homes.

The National Association of Realtors said sales of previously occupied homes rose 10 percent last month. However, sales remain extremely weak compared with where they were just a year ago, which is likely keeping enthusiasm over the news in check.

Shaun Ahmad, president of capital markets at mortgage investment firm RoundPoint Financial Group, said anytime sales jump more than expected, it is a positive sign for the housing market.

However, he added, expectations are very low right now and "there's a significant housing overhang." Home sales won't climb back to more historical levels until a large inventory of homes can be sold, Ahmad said.

Homebuilders rose after Monday's report, including Toll Brothers Inc. and D.R. Horton Inc. Toll shares rose 11 cents to $18.51. D.R. Horton rose 16 cents to $10.77.

The Dow rose 63.92, or 0.6 percent, to 11,196.48 in afternoon trading.

For the second time in the past week, the Dow eclipsed its highest closing level this year only to quickly pullback. It closed at 11,205.03 on April 26. If the Dow can finish above that level Monday, it would be its highest close since September 2008 — just before the credit crisis sent the market tumbling.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 6.26, or 0.5 percent, to 1,189.34, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 17.59, or 0.7 percent, to 2,496.98.

Bond prices rose slightly, sending interest rates lower. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 2.54 percent from 2.56 percent late Friday.

Gold rose $13.80 to $1,338.90 an ounce. Oil rose 10 cents to $81.79.

Material stocks got a lift from higher commodity and energy prices. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. shares jumped $2.29, or 2.4 percent, to $96.34. Dow component and aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. rose 19 cents to $12.91.

The dollar fell against other major currencies. It hit a fresh 15-year low against Japan's yen. The euro again climbed above $1.40 early in the day before sliding back slightly below that level in afternoon trading.

Global finance ministers met over the weekend and agreed to avoid competitive devaluations of their currencies, but they didn't lay out specific guidelines. There has been growing concerns that countries would artificially drive the value of their currencies lower. Weakening a national currency can help a country boost exports because goods become cheaper overseas.

Right now, a weaker dollar could help U.S. companies at the expense of foreign economies.

"Our ability to export is strengthened," Cameron Short, a senior vice president at Stifel Nicolaus, said about the weakening dollar. That could help U.S. companies with future sales, boosting their profitability.

While a weaker currency can lift a country's economic growth, it also creates imbalances in global trade. That can lead to protectionist responses from other countries, threatening to slow or halt a broader global economic recovery.

Leaders from the countries whose finance ministers met over the weekend gather next month. More details about how countries can work together to avoid a currency war could be worked out then.

Other economic reports could further sway trading throughout the week, culminating with the government's first estimate on third-quarter gross domestic product. The report, the broadest measure of the nation's economy, is due out Friday.

Corporate earnings, which helped drive stocks modestly higher last week, could also play a central role in the coming days. Companies including DuPont, Procter & Gamble, 3M and Colgate-Palmolive all release results during the week.