Stocks rose on Monday, adding to three weeks of gains for the S&P after strong earnings from Caterpillar and some proposed acquisitions boosted investor appetite for risky assets.

Equities have climbed recently as optimism over a possible resolution to Europe's sovereign debt crisis and better-than-expected corporate results and economic data seemed to lessen the probability of another U.S. recession.

Caterpillar Inc jumped 5.7 percent to $92.39 and led the Dow higher after the heavy equipment maker reported a quarterly profit that topped estimates on record revenues.

When a big-name company like this reports numbers like these, that will help turn around talk about another recession, said Andrew Bodner, president of Double Diamond Investment Group in Parsippany, New Jersey.

News like this, along with the turnaround we've seen in some economic indicators, is why the markets have moved up like they have.

Equities were also boosted by a number of proposed acquisitions, with Oracle Corp agreeing to buy RightNow Technologies Inc , which provides cloud-based customer services software, for $43 per share. Also, Cigna Corp will acquire HealthSpring Inc , a Medicare health provider for $55 a share.

RightNow gained 19 percent to $42.85 while HealthSpring jumped 33.6 percent to $53.66.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> advanced 101.65 points, or 0.86 percent, at 11,910.44. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 15.56 points, or 1.26 percent, at 1,253.81. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> put on 54.42 points, or 2.06 percent, at 2,691.88.

The S&P has climbed almost 14 percent since October 3, and recent gains have pushed the broad index to the top of its trading range between 1,230 and 1,250, where it has struggled to advance due to conflicting headlines from Europe.

Many investors looked for progress in Europe before good earnings reports can push equities much higher. Light volume suggested investors weren't entirely convinced of the move as uncertainties related to Europe continued making investors cautious.

By midday, nearly 3 billion shares had traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, putting the market on track for a lighter-than-average session.

European policymakers deferred a final decision on a strategy to fight a sovereign debt crisis as they neared agreement on bank recapitalization and on how to leverage a rescue fund to try to stop bond market contagion. The leaders were due to meet again Wednesday.

Google Inc has spoken to at least two private equity firms about help in financing a deal to buy Yahoo Inc's core business, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a source. Yahoo shares rose 2.7 percent at $16.55.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)