U.S. stocks rose modestly on Monday afternoon after natural gas gained to a two-year high, pushing energy companies to soar.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 61.14 points, or 0.49 percent, at 12,442.16. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 4.08 points, or 0.30 percent, at 1,357.19. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 3.20 points, or 0.14 percent, at 2,306.55. About six stocks advanced for every five that fell on the New York Stock Exchange.

Energy stocks were among those on the rise, with sector leader and Dow component Exxon Mobil Corp. Exxon rose as oil prices remained above $99 a barrel after hitting record highs last week. An S&P index of energy shares was up 1.7 percent.

Technology stocks rose on optimism over the latest merger news after video game publisher Electronic Arts Inc made an unsolicited $1.9 billion offer for smaller rival Take-Two Interactive Software.

Take-Two shares gained 54.2 percent to $26.76, while shares of Electronic Arts dropped 6.5 percent to $46.53.

A decline in January sales of existing homes was less than the market expected, but the report also showed an increase in the inventory of homes for sale.