Stocks inched higher on Monday as oil prices retreated after recent sharp gains and data showed further improvement in the U.S. housing market.
The Dow Jones home construction index <.DJUSHB> climbed 1.6 percent.
The S&P 500 has risen nearly 9 percent so far this year. It has been stuck in a tight range between 1,355 and 1,370 as expectations that the index is due to consolidate after the strong gains have vied against data pointing to a firmer U.S. economic recovery, including improvement in the key housing and labor markets.
A lot of positives are unfolding in the U.S., but a lot of that has been priced into this rally we've had since the fall. With the earnings season over, we may see a little bit of pullback, said Natalie Trunow, chief investment officer of equities at Calvert Investment Management in Bethesda, Maryland, which has about $13 billion in assets.
The S&P briefly rose above 1,370.58, its highest level since June 2008 and a key resistance point.
Oil prices have put a brake on gains in the S&P in recent weeks, spurred higher by worries over disruptions to Middle East supplies due to sanctions against Iran along with expectations for greater demand from an improving U.S. economy.
Brent crude was down more than $1 a barrel on Monday after hitting a 10-month high on Friday.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 24.10 points, or 0.19 percent, at 13,007.05. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 3.47 points, or 0.25 percent, at 1,369.21. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 7.71 points, or 0.26 percent, at 2,971.46.
Stocks also got a boost after an industry group reported that contracts for home resales hit a near two-year high in January, that latest evidence that the industry may be in the beginning stages of a recovery.
The PHLX housing sector index <.HGX> climbed 1.1 percent, buoyed by an advance in shares of building materials maker Owens Corning
Through Monday morning, of the 468 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings for the most recent quarter, 63 percent have beaten analyst expectations. More than 20 companies in the index are expected to report results this week.
Biotech stocks fell after Dendreon Corp
Dendreon slumped 19.4 percent to $11.98. The NYSEArca biotech index <.BTK> lost 1.4 percent.
(Reporting By Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Leslie Adler)