(REUTERS) -- Stocks edged higher on Monday led by technology and bank shares as investors prepared for the start of the U.S. corporate earnings season.
The KBW bank index rose 1 percent, adding to gains from last week, while technology shares advanced after Deutsche Bank upgraded the semiconductor sector. The PHLX chip maker index up 1.7 percent.
Alcoa Inc , the largest U.S. aluminum producer, will unofficially kick off the earnings season when it reports after the bell. Alcoa rose 3.5 percent to $9.47.
Fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies were expected to rise 7.8 percent from a year ago, according to a Thomson Reuters forecast, down from a July 1 outlook for growth of 17.6 percent.
The lower revisions were due in part to expected fallout from a euro zone debt crisis and the region's sluggish economic growth.
Beating expectations will not be as simple as it was some quarters ago, said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in New York. He said he expects sector bellwethers to perform well and give momentum to the market in the weeks ahead.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 20.40 points, or 0.17 percent, at 12,380.32. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 1.43 points, or 0.11 percent, at 1,279.24. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 4.24 points, or 0.16 percent, at 2,678.46.
The S&P 500 faces strong technical resistance as it has been unable to pierce through 1,285, the closing high set in late October.
The U.S. Federal Reserve is pushing government officials to use more stimulus to revive the battered housing market after exhausting its own tools.
An index of homebuilder stocks rose nearly 1 percent and U.S. banks, which have had to write down billions since the real estate bubble popped three years ago, saw their shares rise despite declines in their European peers.
Goldman Sachs raised its price target on Apple Inc shares to $550 from $530, saying the technology giant is set to report a healthy December quarter, and boosted its estimates for iPhone sales for the quarter. Apple shares gained 1.2 percent to $427.38.
Bank stocks were among the largest gainers last week, with the KBW bank index jumped 5.7 percent,
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)