NEW YORK, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- U.S. stocks eked out a modest gain Monday, with the S&P 500 closing at a record high, as positive data around the world provided a boost to the market.
The S&P 500 increased 3.28 points, or 0.18 percent, to 1,808.37, eclipsing its previous record close of 1,807.23 set on Nov. 27.
The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average ended in mildly positive territory after wavering between gains and losses, rising 5.33 points, or 0.03 percent, to 16,025.53, while the Nasdaq Composite Index was up 6.23 points, or 0.15 percent, to 4,068.75, a new high in more than 13 years.
The market rally came on the heels of broad-based gains in global stock markets, propelled by a strong U.S. November non-farm payroll report and better-than-expected Chinese foreign trade.
Official data showed over the weekend that Chinese exports surged 12.7 percent in November year on year, topping market estimates, and trade surplus surpassed 30 billion U.S. dollars for the second time.
The U.S. non-farm payroll added 203,000 in November, while unemployment rate edged down to a five-year low of 7 percent from the prior month's 7.3 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday.
In the absence of major economic data Monday, investors placed their focus on speeches from two Federal Reserve officials during the day for clues as to the timing of the Fed's first tapering.
St Louis Fed President James Bullard said Monday that the probability of a reduction in the pace of asset purchases has increased based on labor market data.
"A small taper might recognize labor market improvement while still providing the Committee (Federal Open Market Committee) the opportunity to carefully monitor inflation during the first half of 2014," Bullard said, adding should inflation not return toward their target, the Fed could pause tapering at subsequent meetings.
Meanwhile, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker said that he expects discussion about the possibility of reducing the pace of asset purchases at the December policy meeting.
The two Fed officials' hints of a possible slowdown in bond purchases put a damper on the market's gains.
Still, many analysts believe the U.S. economic data released recently, albeit robust, is not good enough to push the Fed to taper in the meeting scheduled for Dec. 17-18.
In corporate news, AMR Corporation, the parent of American Airlines, and US Airways Group, Inc., announced Monday the completion of their merger to officially form American Airlines Group Inc., now the country's largest airline, whose shares closed at 24.60 dollars under the ticker of AAL on the NASDAQ Stock Market.
The Dow and the S&P 500 snapped an eight-week winning streak last week as a string of upbeat data reignited fears that the Fed may soon start to trim its monthly asset purchases of 85 billion U. S. dollars.
On other markets, the U.S. dollar fell against most major currencies Monday but it continued to rise against the Japanese yen as investors seek higher yielding assets.
In late New York trading, the dollar bought 103.22 Japanese yen, higher than 102.91 yen of the previous session. The euro rose to 1. 3739 dollars from 1.3696 dollars in the previous session.
Oil prices fell on profit-taking after posting considerable gains last week. Light, sweet crude for January delivery lost 31 cents to settle at 97.34 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and Brent crude for January delivery moved down 2.22 dollars to close at 109.39 dollars a barrel.
Gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange rose slightly despite hints by Fed officials about scale- down of bond purchases. The most active gold contract for February delivery rose 5.2 dollars, or 0.42 percent, to settle at 1,234.2 dollars per ounce.