NEW YORK, June 16 (Xinhua) -- U.S. stocks eked out a modest gain after wavering between gains and losses Monday, as the country's upbeat economic data outweighed concerns over Iraq.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 5.27 points, or 0.03 percent, to 16,781.01. The S&P 500 was up 1.62 points, or 0.08 percent, to 1,937.78. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 10.45 points, or 0.24 percent, to 4,321.11.
As geopolitical risks in Iraq continued to weigh on Wall Street which underwent a modest correction last week, major stock indices opened lower before posting a volatile session.
Iraqi security forces on Saturday continued fierce clashes with militant groups, with the government troops retaking control of three towns in Salahudin province, security and medical sources said.
However, better-than-expected economic data rolling out in the day helped the stock market close in green territory after toggling in and out of negative territory. Investors seemed to be reluctant to short stocks amid a strengthening U.S. economy and an accommodative monetary policy by the U.S. Federal Reserve which is scheduled to announce policy decisions after a two-day meeting beginning Tuesday.
Manufacturing activity in the New York Region in June improved significantly for a second consecutive month, with the Empire State general business conditions index registering 19.3, following a nearly-four-year high of 19.0 in May, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported. The number exceeded analyst estimates.
Moreover, U.S. industrial production rose 0.6 percent in May after declining 0.3 percent in April, said the U.S. Federal Reserve. The reading also surpassed market consensus.
In addition, U.S. builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes rose to 49 in June, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index released Monday. The confidence index remained 1 point shy of the threshold for what is considered good building conditions, but it still beat market expectations.
Traders said the stock market is in a somewhat holding pattern as investors are awaiting the Fed's two-day policy meeting, which will culminate with the Fed's latest economic projections and Fed Chair Janet Yellen's press conference on Wednesday.
Benefiting from tensions in Iraq, utilities, energy and consumer staples are the three sectors that rallied the most among the S&P 500's 10 sectors.
The CBOE Volatility Index, a gauge of fear in the market, rose 3.86 percent to end at 12.65, well below the long-term average of around 20.
Last week, the blue-chip Dow and the S&P 500 suffered their first weekly losses in four weeks, down 0.9 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively, while the Nasdaq ended the week 0.2 percent lower.
In other markets, U.S. oil price remained flat as traders worried a potential escalation of violence in Iraq.
Light, sweet crude for July delivery moved down 1 cent to settle at 106.9 U.S. dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude for August delivery gained 48 cents to close at 112.94 dollars a barrel.
The dollar dropped versus most other currencies as traders awaited clues from the Fed's policy meeting.
In late New York trading, the euro moved up to 1.3570 dollars from 1.3533 dollars in the previous session. The dollar bought 101. 83 Japanese yen, lower than 102.02 yen of the previous session.
Gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange rose on instability in Iraq.
The most active gold contract for August delivery rose 1.2 dollars, or 0.09 percent, to settle at 1,275.3 dollars per ounce.