Stocks edged higher on Monday, helped by gains in McDonald's after the fast-food giant posted strong sales results, and a move up in technology shares.
Technology stocks were the S&P 500's best-performing sector as Hewlett-Packard Co climbed 2.9 percent to $14.20 on rumors that activist investor Carl Icahn is building a stake in the PC maker. The stock is down 44.5 percent for the year and ranks as the Dow's worst performer.
Tech was also supported by Cisco Systems , which gained 2.4 percent to $19.79 after the company presented its midterm growth strategy on Friday. Monday's rally put the stock on track for its fifth advance in the past six sessions.
U.S. President Barack Obama met with Republican House Speaker John Boehner on Sunday to negotiate a budget deal. A Boehner aide said Monday that talks are continuing.
Persistent worries about the negotiations over the "fiscal cliff," a series of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that could hurt economic growth next year, have kept market moves small of late.
"There is a general sense that if a deal is struck, that we could have a further advance in the market at the end of this year as well as the first part of next year," said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial in Westport, Connecticut.
The benchmark S&P 500 index has yet to see a move greater than 0.5 percent in either direction for December, and hasn't moved more than 1 percent either way since November 23. However, the market has regained most of the losses incurred post-election as investors refocused on the fiscal cliff.
McDonald's Corp gave the Dow a jolt, gaining 1.4 percent to $89.69, as its November sales were stronger than expected and showed a bounce back from a decline in October.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 23.03 points, or 0.18 percent, at 13,178.16. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 0.71 of a point, or 0.05 percent, at 1,418.78. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 7.35 points, or 0.25 percent, at 2,985.39.
News out of Italy kept sentiment in check as Prime Minister Mario Monti said he would resign after the approval of the 2013 budget. The move added to uncertainty about progress being made to tackle the euro zone's debt problem and drove Italy's borrowing costs higher.
(Reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti and Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Jan Paschal)