Stocks rose on Monday after bullish comments from a Federal Reserve official eased concerns that high oil prices could hurt economic activity.

Also helping equities, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc , said in his widely read annual letter the conglomerate was looking to make major acquisitions, a sign stocks may be cheap. Berkshire's Class B shares rose 1.9 percent to $86.50.

James Bullard, president of the St. Louis Fed, said the economy should do well in 2011 and that oil prices are not currently a drag on the recovery.

April crude futures fell 0.6 percent to $97.35 per barrel after Saudi Arabia reassured on supply concerns as protests spread to oil producer Oman.

If oil prices rise further it will restrain economic growth, but with no further escalations, at current levels it isn't going to cause a recession, said Jason Pride, director of investment strategy at Glenmede Investment and Wealth Management in Philadelphia.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> advanced 78.94 points, or 0.65 percent, at 12,209.39. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 7.88 points, or 0.60 percent, at 1,327.76. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> rose 16.02 points, or 0.58 percent, at 2,797.07.

Equities had their worst performance since November last week on worries related to the Libyan uprising.

Exxon Mobil Corp was the top gainer on the Dow, adding 1.3 percent to $86.42, followed by Hewlett-Packard Co , up nearly 2 percent to $43.48.

U.S.-listed shares of HSBC Holdings Plc fell 4.2 percent to $54.82 after the banking group cut its profit targets due to costs from tougher banking regulations.

In the latest economic data, pending home sales fell 2.8 percent in January, a steeper decline than expected. Stocks were little impacted by the data.

The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago said its index of Midwest business activity rose more than forecast in February to 71.2 from 68.8 in January.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)