Stocks Ended with Slight Gains

U.S. stocks ended mostly higher on Monday, shaking off an early loss, as an advance in telecom and health-care stocks offset declines in energy and materials. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 21.57 points, or 0.12%, to 17,623.87. The S&P 500 was up 2.02 points, or 0.10%, to 2,051.60. The Nasdaq Composite gained 13.23 points, or 0.28%, to 4,808.87.

Sales of previously owned homes sank in February, a sign that demand for housing could be cooling amid rising prices and low inventory. Sales fell 7.1% in February from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.08 million, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.

Oil prices rose about 1 percent on Monday after data showed crude inventories at the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery hub for U.S. futures fell for the first time since January. Brent crude futures for May delivery settled up 34 cents, or 0.8 percent, at $41.54 a barrel. U.S. crude’s futures for April CLJ6 gained 47 cents, or 1.2 percent, to settle at $39.91.

Mattress Firm Holding Corp. (MFRM) reported fourth-quarter earnings and sales that were below analyst expectations. Mattress Firm said it earned $13.1 million, or 37 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with 19 cents a share in the year-ago period. Sales reached $618.5 million in the quarter.

Drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc (VRX.TO)(VRX.N) said on Monday its chief executive officer is leaving and billionaire investor William Ackman would join the board as it tries to clean up accounting problems and save its business.

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