Stocks drifted higher Monday, brushing aside another record high for oil prices as investors banked on the impending tide of third-quarter profit reports to override worries about a struggling economic recovery.
With no major economic or earnings data to steer market sentiment on Columbus Day, investors appeared to be betting that the quarterly reporting season might divert attention from Friday's disappointing employment report and rising fuel costs.
However, analysts were dubious the market could build much momentum on profit news alone.
"The big troika here is economic data, oil and the election, and those things are keeping a stranglehold on the market," said David D. Legeay, investment strategist for McDonald Financial Group. "Barring anything to the extreme in earnings season, we're just in a market now that will move sideways and in concert with economics, whether jobs data or retail sales data" and energy prices.
Stocks managed to hold their modest gains even though oil futures pushed toward $54 a barrel as a strike began in Nigeria, Africa's largest exporter of crude, adding to supply concerns at a time of reduced output in the hurricane-ravaged Gulf of Mexico.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 26.77, or 0.3 percent, to 10,081.97. The Nasdaq composite index rose 8.79, or 0.5 percent, to 1928.76, while the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 2.25, or 0.2 percent, to 1124.39.
The biggest movers in the Dow were Home Depot, up $1.05, to $40.07; Altria Group, up 50 cents, to $47.01; and American International Group, up 58 cents, to $67.48. Drug manufacturers also lifted the Dow, with Merck rising 40 cents, to $30.74, and Pfizer rising 51 cents, to $30.31.
The reporting season will hit full stride Tuesday with updates from Intel, Yahoo and Merrill Lynch. Other big names reporting later in the week include General Motors and Citigroup. More than 100 companies were scheduled to report by week's end.
* The New York Stock Exchange composite index rose 6.75, to 6643.17; the American Stock Exchange index fell 0.47, to 1284.73; and the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 1.91, to 577.56.
* Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones by 8 to 7 on the NYSE, where trading volume fell to 944 million shares, from 1.29 billion on Friday. On the Nasdaq Stock Market, advancers outnumbered decliners by 3 to 2 and volume totaled 1.16 billion, down from 1.66 billion.
* The dollar fell against the Japanese yen and rose against the euro. In late New York trading, a dollar bought 109.35 yen, down from 109.42 late Friday, and a euro bought $1.2379, down from $1.2418.
* Light, sweet crude oil for November delivery settled at $53.64, up 33 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
* Gold for current delivery fell to $422.00 a troy ounce, from $423.10 on Friday, on the New York Mercantile Exchange's Commodity Exchange.