* Italy forms government after months of uncertainty
* Fed, ECB expected to pursue stimulus plans this week
* Apple rises, sets groundwork for first-ever debt sale
* Moody's, McGraw-Hill rally after settling lawsuits
* Indexes up: Dow 0.7 pct, S&P 0.7 pct, Nasdaq 0.9 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, April 29 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 index ended at an
all-time high on Monday as growth-oriented stocks, including
energy and technology, lead the way to the index's sixth rise in
the past seven sessions.
Stronger-than-expected housing data also boosted the market,
as did Italy's formation of a new government, ending months of
uncertainty and raising hopes for new policies to promote growth
in the euro zone's third-largest economy.
Pressure has grown on the European Central Bank to lower
interest rates with the euro zone mired in recession. Money
market traders are evenly split on whether the ECB will cut
rates at its meeting on Thursday, according to a Reuters
Wall Street followed European stocks higher as Italian Prime
Minister Enrico Letta urged a focus on growth policies and away
from austerity measures in his inaugural speech.
"After the election there was a lot of uncertainty about
whether Italy could form a government, so now there is not only
a great deal of relief over that, but also expectations for
additional monetary policies from the ECB," said Alec Young,
global equity strategist at S&P Equity Research in New York.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 106.20
points, or 0.72 percent, at 14,818.75. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was up 11.37 points, or 0.72 percent, at 1,593.61.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 27.76 points, or 0.85
percent, at 3,307.02.
The U.S. Federal Reserve will also meet this week for a
two-day session beginning on Tuesday. The Fed is expected to
maintain its stimulus policy. Data on Monday showing muted
inflation gave the Fed room for accommodative measures.
Also lifting markets was Apple Inc, which jumped
3.1 percent to $430.12 after taking initial steps for what would
be its first debt sale. Technology stocks rose 1.7
percent, making the sector the best-performing on Monday.
Among energy shares, Chevron Corp rose 1.1 percent
A report showed contracts to buy previously owned homes rose
last month to their highest level since April 2010, showing
underlying strength in the housing market recovery, even though
the pace of sales growth has cooled in recent months.
The S&P 500 closed just barely above its previous record hit
earlier this month of 1,593.37.
"The market's trend continues to be higher, but it is still
attractive at these valuations," said Young, who has a 12-month
target of 1,670 for the S&P.
About 71 percent of New York Stock Exchange-listed companies
closed higher while 65 percent of companies traded on the Nasdaq
ended in positive territory.
Volume was light, with about 5.10 billion shares changing
hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT,
below the daily average so far this year of about 6.36 billion
Moody's Corp was the S&P 500's top percentage
gainer, jumping 8.3 percent to $59.69 after the company settled
a lawsuit alleging that it had misled investors about the safety
of risky debt vehicles it had rated.
McGraw-Hill Cos, whose Standard & Poor's unit said
it settled similar suits, rose 2.8 percent to $53.45.
Roper Industries Inc fell 3.8 percent to $118.68
after reporting first-quarter revenue that missed expectations,
though it raised its full-year profit outlook.
Of the 274 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported
earnings to date for current season, 69 percent have beat
analysts' expectations and 43.2 percent have reported revenue
The second half of the earnings season may not be as strong
as the first one, data showed.