By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks climbed on Monday, with the Dow and S&P 500 advancing to all-time highs as a distribution deal by Apple Inc with China Mobile boosted the technology sector.
Apple (AAPL) rose 3.8 percent to $570.09, its biggest percentage gain in three months, after the tech titan said on Sunday it had signed a long-awaited agreement with China Mobile Ltd (CHL) to sell iPhones through the world's biggest network of mobile phone users, a deal that could add billions of dollars to its revenue.
Apple's rally helped power the S&P technology sector index (.SPLRCT) to a gain of 1.5 percent, making it the best performer of the 10 major S&P sectors. The stock's massive market capitalization helped lift both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq. U.S.-listed shares of China Mobile rose 1.6 percent to $52.47.
"It is up nicely on this news, and it's not bad news. But I thought it was something people were kind of already aware of," said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Equity Management LLC in San Francisco.
Volume was light, with about 4.68 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, well below the 6.49 billion average so far this month, according to data from BATS Global Markets.
This week, volume is expected to be thin, with many market participants out for the Christmas holiday. Equity markets will close early on Tuesday and will be closed all of Wednesday. The light volume could amplify market volatility.
"I've got traders calling me up saying, 'You got anything going on? I've got nothing.' Everyone is looking for something that's moving. This is just the way it is when it comes to the Christmas holidays," said Michael Matousek, head trader at U.S. Global Investors Inc in San Antonio, Texas.
The Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) advanced 44.163 points or 1.08 percent, to close at 4,148.903, its highest since August 2000.
The Dow also touched an all-time intraday high at 16,318.11, while the S&P 500 climbed to a record intraday high at 1,829.75.
Both the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 got a lift from Facebook Inc (FB.O), which jumped 4.8 percent to end at a record $57.77, in the social networking company's first day of trading as an S&P 500 component. Facebook also set an all-time intraday high of $58.32 during Monday's session.
The Dow's and the S&P 500's runs to all-time highs extended the market's sharp gains from last week, the strongest week for the major U.S. stock indexes in months.
The rally was fueled by strong economic data and the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to begin trimming its stimulus program next month, which removed a major source of uncertainty for the market. The Fed also said its key interest rate would stay at rock bottom longer than previously promised.
"Clearly what the Fed did was right down the sweet spot, and it was quite frankly what the market wanted to hear. But now it is in the market, and we have to wait for new events," Massocca said.
The S&P 500 has soared 28.2 percent this year, largely due to the Fed's stimulus measures, and is on track for its best year since 1997.
The Dow has climbed 24.3 percent in 2013, while the Nasdaq has jumped 37.4 percent.
In the latest economic data, consumer sentiment hit a five-month high heading into the end of the year, and spending notched its strongest month since the summer, the latest signs of sustained vigor in the economy that are increasing hopes of a strong 2014.
Retail stocks will continue to garner attention in the final shopping days leading up to Christmas. In a sign that this season may be a difficult one for the sector, U.S. consumers shopped less during the final weekend before Christmas despite deeper discounts, according to analytics firm RetailNext.
Target Corp (TGT) may encounter particular trouble in the wake of a massive data breach. The Wall Street Journal reported that the retailer suffered reduced customer traffic over the weekend, which is one of the busiest of the year. Target's stock fell 1 percent to $61.88.
Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the New York Stock Exchange by 2,165 to 883, while on the Nasdaq, 1,902 stocks rose and 722 shares declined.
(Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Jan Paschal)