Stocks ended broadly higher on Monday, with gainers outnumbering losers by a 4-to-1 margin. With earnings season over and a pretty bare slate of economic events on the agenda, investors were extremely risk tolerant on Monday, returning en masse to the beaten-down tech and health care sectors. Telecom and utilities were the only two sectors to lose ground today, and Exelon Corporation (NYSE: ED ) , NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP ) and FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE ) finished as the S&P 500 Index's (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) worst-performing stocks. The S&P, for its part, added 18 points, or 1%, to end at 1,896.
Exelon Corporation, the largest utilities provider in the U.S., lost 2.2% on Monday. Utility stocks tend to underperform in bull markets, since their steady, low-growth business models and fairly predictable cash flows don't offer the explosive growth Wall Street craves. A proposed acquisition of the natural gas and electric utility company Pepco for $6.8 billion last week would make Exelon even more mundane and predictable, since Pepco is exposed to a ton of government regulation. The stock will also begin trading ex-dividend on Wednesday, meaning that anyone holding the stock at the closing bell tomorrow will be entitled to the company's next quarterly dividend.
Data storage company NetApp saw shares fall 1.8% on Monday after a Raymond James analyst downgraded the stock from "outperform" to "market perform." Claiming that margins have peaked and new competitors are threatening its business, the downgrade comes weeks before quarterly results and as shares of competitor Nimble Storage were upgraded on potential gains in market share.
Finally, shares of FirstEnergy shed 1.7%, contributing to the decline of the utilities sector on Monday. FirstEnergy is an electric utility with a presence in six states from Ohio to New York. Like Exelon, the stock boasts a sizable dividend, paying a 4.3% annual yield at the moment. The company missed earnings expectations in the most recent quarter, and worried investors last week by forecasting lower full-year earnings than expected. It also expects the competitive environment to make for "extremely challenging" conditions in the coming quarters, a choice of phrasing that may rightfully be spooking off investors.
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