NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — U.S. stocks cut their morning losses and finished higher Monday, rebounding from one of their worst weeks of the year. But the gains were slim as investors gear up for first quarter earnings reports.
The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 0.3% while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq gained 0.6%.
Kick-off to earnings: Investors will be shifting gears this week to first-quarter earnings. Aluminum producer Alcoa unofficially kicked things off with its quarterly report after the closing bell. The Dow component posted earnings that topped forecasts. But sales were below estimates. JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo are on tap for Friday. They are the first two of the big banks to report.
Overall, analysts are forecasting first-quarter earnings to be up just 1.5% compared with a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters.
The results over the next few weeks "will likely determine whether investors take profits on a huge Q1 stock market rally, or continue to pile on long positions to prepare for a potential continued run higher," said analysts at Lido Isle Advisors.
Rally hits speed bump: Stocks have lost steam in the last few weeks, on renewed worries about Europe, softer U.S. economic data, particularly the March jobs report, and concerns about the nuclear threat from North Korea.
But following this year's huge rally and new record highs for the Dow and S&P 500, experts say a pause is normal.
Any pullback could also be the start of a short-term correction "that will wring out some of the excesses that have crept into the market, most notably overly optimistic sentiment," said William Riegel, head of equity investments at TIAA-CREF.
What's moving: General Electric said it planned to buy energy company LLufkin Industries for $3.3 billion. Shares of Lufkin, which builds and maintains equipment for oil and gas wells, surged nearly 38%.
Anheuser-Busche InBev's proposed $20 billion acquisition of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo appears to be back on track after the companies, along with Constellation Brands and Crown Imports, said they'd reached an agreement that would settle the Justice Department's objections to the deal.
Shares of Biocryst Pharmaceutical climbed 13% after China's Food and Drug Administration expedited the approval of the company's anti-influenza medicine Peramivir amid a bird flu outbreak.
Global pressures: Portugal plans to cut spending on education, health and welfare in a bid to meet the terms of an international rescue after the country's constitutional court shot holes in its austerity program. Despite a sell-off in Portuguese stocks, the main European markets ended slightly higher.
Meanwhile, tensions remain high in Korea as the region waits uneasily for Kim Jong Un's next move. Asian markets ended mixed. The Shanghai Composite closed down 0.6%, while the Hang Seng advanced 0.1%.
The Nikkei continued to rally, adding another 2.8%, as investors cheered new stimulus measures from the Bank of Japan. The yen weakened against the U.S. dollar, falling to its lowest level since 2009.
The dollar fell against the euro but gained ground versus the British pound.
Oil prices rose slightly, while gold edged lower.
The price of the 10-year Treasury edged lower, pushing the yield up to 1.75% from 1.69% late Friday.