U.S. stocks ended on a positive note, following choppy trading in early session, supported by Apple's dividend and buyback plans as well as steady housing data.
S&P 500 Index gained 0.40 percent to finish at 1,409.75. The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged 0.05 percent higher to end at 13,239.13. The Nasdaq Composite Index closed at 3,078.32, up 0.75 percent.
On the economic front, homebuilder confidence in the U.S. remained unchanged in March, following five consecutive months of gains. Data on housing starts and new and existing home sales will be released later in the week.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: (AAPL, UPS, ADBE, C, S, ABVT, AMPE)
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) gained 2.65 percent to end at $601.10. The technology giant has brought an end to investors long-awaited demand for returning some the company's nearly $100 billion cash pile. Apple said it would start paying a quarterly dividend of $2.65 per share sometime in the fourth quarter of its fiscal 2012. The company also authorized a $10 billion share repurchase program commencing from fiscal 2013.
United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE:UPS) advanced 3.44 percent to finish at $81.11. The package-delivery giant boosted its offer for Dutch peer TNT Express NV by 5.6 percent to 5.16 billion euros ($6.8 billion). UPS will pay 9.50 euros a share, up from 9 euros per share in cash it offered earlier.
Adobe Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: ADBE) retreated 5.5 percent to $32.59 in extended trading following its quarterly results and guidance. The company earned $0.57 a share on revenue of $1.045 billion, in line with consensus estimates. For the second quarter, ADBE sees non-GAAP EPS between 57 cents and 61 cents, on revenue of $1.090 billion to $1.140 billion, in line with Wall Steet projections. Adobe lifted its 2012 EPS target range by a cent to $2.38 to $2.48 on a non-GAAP basis. The company also raised its revenue growth target to a range of six to eight percent.
Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) rose 1.3 percent to end at $37.17. The third-largest U.S. bank sold its entire 2.71 percent stake in Shanghai Pudong Development Bank to institutional investors, generating after- tax gains of around $349 million.
Sprint (NYSE: S) retreated 4.5 percent to close at $2.76. Bernstein analysts lowered rating on the stock to "Underperform".
AboveNet Inc. (NYSE: ABVT) jumped 12.78 percent to close at $83.74 after the high-bandwidth connectivity services provider agreed to acquired by privately-held Zayo Group for around $2.2 billion, or $84.00 a share in cash, to create a "dense fiber footprint throughout North America and Europe". Compared to 52-week high price of $78.07, the latest offer price represents a premium of 7.6 percent to ABVT's closing price of $74.25 on Friday.
Ampio Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: AMPE) rallied 41.8 percent to finish at $3.80 after reporting "positive" results from a clinical study of Optin, which is indicated to treat diabetic macular edema.
The European markets closed lower, with Germany's DAX down 0.05 percent to end at 7,154.22. France's CAC40 declined 0.47 percent to finish at 3,577.88. Britain's FTSE 100 inched 0.07 percent lower to close at 5,961.11.
Asia markets ended on a mixed note. The Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.24 percent to end at $2,410.50. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.95 percent to close at 21,114.29. Japan's Nikkei 225 advanced 0.12 percent to end at 10,141.99. India's BSE Sensex finished at 17,273.37, down 1.10 percent.
Crude oil futures strengthened 0.86 percent to $107.980 per barrel, and natural gas price rose 0.95 percent to $2.348 per million metric British thermal units. Gold gained 0.40 percent to $1,662.5 per ounce, and silver advanced 0.98 percent to $32.925 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro gained 0.47 percent against the U.S. dollar to $1.3238. The British pound rose 0.30 percent against the greenback to 1.5892, and the dollar traded 0.13 percent lower against the Japanese yen to 83.3260.