US stocks hit record levels

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The Dow flirted with its first-ever close above 35,000 points Monday as US stocks turned in another record-filled session ahead of a heavy schedule of earnings releases and economic reports.

The blue-chip index finished at 34,996.18, a gain of 0.4 percent. The index was just above 35,000 points at the 2000 GMT closing bell, but settled under the benchmark after the close.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 0.4 percent to 4,384.63, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.2 percent to 14,733.24.

All three major indices finished at records, reflecting how optimism over the economic recovery has offset worries about inflation and the Delta variant of Covid-19.

Investors are geared up for a heady earnings season, beginning Tuesday with reports from JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.

The period is expected to be the second strongest quarter in the last 25 years, according to CFRA Research's Sam Stovall.

But analysts at DataTrek Research warned that earnings seasons "needs to be awesome" to extend the rally.

"We're reminded of the old market saying, 'buy the rumor, sell the news,'" DataTrek said in a note. "The first bit is happening right now. We will shortly see how the second part plays out."

Other highlights this week include congressional testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and the release of June consumer price and retail sales data.

New York Fed President John Williams told reporters Monday that the recovery in key areas of the US economy is not sufficient enough for the central bank to start pulling back on its aggressive stimulus program.

Large banks enjoyed a good session as Treasury bond yields strengthened and investors looked ahead to the earnings announcements. JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Bank of America all piled on at least one percent.

Disney was another big winner, surging 4.2 percent following a strong opening weekend for its "Black Widow" superhero movie. The entertainment giant also plans to increase the price for its "ESPN+" streaming service, CNBC reported.

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