S&P, Dow post record closes, dollar hits 11-year high

A man walks past the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square, August 23, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly (Reuters)

By Richard Leong NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stock prices rallied on Monday, with the Nasdaq composite crossing 5,000 for the first time in 15 years, while the dollar touched an 11-year high on expectations the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates later this year. Wall Street kicked off March on a high note after a stellar February, when the benchmark S&P 500 Index registered its best monthly gain since October 2011. The S&P and Dow Jones industrial average posted record closing highs on Monday. "We are still in a longer-term economic expansion. This bull market still has some room to go," said Jason Pride, director of investment strategy at Glenmede in Philadelphia. Asian stocks ended higher after China cut interest rates over the weekend, but European equities slipped from seven-year highs hit on merger activity in the telecom sector. China, which posted its slowest growth in decades in 2014, on Saturday cut its benchmark lending and deposit rates. Brent crude futures fell nearly 5 percent in London to below $60 a barrel after Iran said a deal on its nuclear program could be reached this week if the West lifts sanctions, which could boost the country's oil exports. Gold slipped from two-week highs as investors cashed in gains tied to upbeat Asian demand. Expectations the U.S. central bank might end its near-zero interest rate policy as early as this summer remained despite data suggesting the world's biggest economy was losing some momentum. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 155.93 points, or 0.86 percent, to 18,288.63, the S&P 500 gained 12.89 points, or 0.61 percent, to 2,117.39 and the Nasdaq Composite finished up 44.57 points, or 0.9 percent, to 5,008.10. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 stocks index ended 0.2 percent lower. A 5 percent fall in Vivendi shares and a 7 percent drop in Greek banks pressured the market and outweighed any beneficial impact of broadly upbeat euro zone data. Tokyo's Nikkei ended up 0.15 percent. Against a basket of currencies, the dollar climbed to its strongest level since September 2003. The dollar index was 0.2 percent higher in late trading at 95.478. The greenback was up 0.34 percent at 120.110 yen, while the euro was down 0.1 percent against the dollar at $1.1185. In the bond market, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese yields fell to record lows as investors looked forward to the start of the European Central Bank's quantitative easing program later this month. ECB policymakers meet in Cyprus on Wednesday and Thursday. Yields on less risky 10-year U.S. and German government debt rose to 2.087 percent and 0.360 percent, respectively. Brent crude for April delivery settled down $3.04, or 4.86 percent, at $59.54 a barrel. U.S. crude settled down 17 cents or 0.34 percent at $49.59 per barrel. [O/R] Spot gold prices fell 0.6 percent at $1,206 an ounce. (Additional reporting by Nigel Stephenson, Atul Prakash and Patrick Graham in London, Shinichi Saoshiro in Tokyo, Lidia Kelly and Vladimir Abramov in Moscow; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Dan Grebler)