By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Citigroup's strong earnings helped the S&P 500 end higher on Monday for an eighth straight day, the longest such streak since mid-January, though weak retail sales limited gains in a session with the lowest volume of the year.
The Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 finished at record closing highs for the third consecutive session. The Nasdaq scored its highest close since September 2000.
Volume was the lightest of any full trading day this year, with just 4.91 billion shares trading on exchanges, based on the latest available data. This year, daily volume has averaged 6.4 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT.
Shares of Citigroup
The day's economic data was mixed, however, with growth in New York state manufacturing for July accelerating, while June retail sales fell short of expectations. May business inventories barely increased.
Investors are watching for changes in earnings or economic news that could derail the market's rally. Stocks have climbed this year, except for a late-May selloff triggered by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's comments, which raised the prospect of trimming the Fed's $85 billion in monthly stimulus. The S&P 500 has gained 18 percent since December 31.
"Earnings so far seem to have gotten off to a pretty decent start," said Cam Albright, director of asset allocation for Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors in Wilmington, Delaware. "We think there was a lot of bringing down of expectations prior to reaching earnings season, so that is probably giving the earnings numbers a little bit more cushion."
Leap Wireless International Inc
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 19.96 points, or 0.13 percent, to 15,484.26, a record closing high. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 2.31 points, or 0.14 percent, to finish at 1,682.50, also a record. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> advanced 7.41 points, or 0.21 percent, to end at 3,607.49 - its highest close since September 2000.
Much of the focus this week will be on earnings. Analysts expect S&P 500 companies' second-quarter earnings to have grown 2.8 percent from a year earlier, with revenue up 1.5 percent from a year ago, Thomson Reuters data showed.
While earnings growth has slowed in recent quarters, it is expected to pick up the last half of the year. Bank of America-Merrill Lynch raised its year-end target for the S&P 500 to 1,750 from 1,600, citing expected earnings growth.
Most companies also are exceeding analysts' earnings expectations, as they have done in recent quarters. Of the companies that have reported second-quarter results so far, 66.7 percent are beating earnings estimates. Revenue results, however, are faring worse and are likely to remain a concern for investors, analysts said.
S&P 500 industrial shares rose after airlines expressed confidence over the weekend in the safety of Boeing's
This week's agenda includes comments from Bernanke, who is scheduled to testify about monetary policy before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. He will appear on Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee.
"Given what he has been saying, I don't expect much different," Albright said.
First Solar Inc
Shares of Tiffany & Co
On the flip side, shares of Ingredion
Utilities outperformed other sectors in the S&P 500, with the sector index <.SPLRCU> up 1.6 percent. Utility companies, including FirstEnergy Corp
Advancers outnumbered decliners on the New York Stock Exchange by a ratio of about 19 to 11, while on the Nasdaq, 16 stocks rose for nearly every nine that fell.
(Editing by Kenneth Barry, Nick Zieminski and Jan Paschal)