Earnings Optimism Keeps Stocks Up

Stocks ended the session slightly higher Monday as investors looked past high oil prices and anticipated the start of earnings season tomorrow.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 26.77 points, or 0.27 percent, to close at 10,081.97. The technology-laced Nasdaq Composite Index finished up 8.79 points, or 0.46 percent, at 1,928.76, while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index ended up 2.25 points, or 0.20 percent, at 1,124.39.

Volume was light, with the U.S. Treasury bond market closed for the Columbus Day holiday.

"The equity market is just going into the height of earnings season and it's not really paying as much attention" to oil, said David Hegarty, head of equity trading for Commerzbank Securities.

"But crude is keeping all the rallies in check, and in order to get out of the range, we need crude to come off."

Despite a spate of worrisome earnings previews over the past month, Wall Street expects the companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 to show at least a 10 percent increase in profits from a year ago, and the newly tempered outlook may enable most of the reports to top Wall Street forecasts.

But even with a strong showing, third-quarter profits are expect to come in lower than the second quarter's results, breaking a string of six straight quarters with improving profits.

Oil prices were still keeping investors on edge, as crude jumped to $53.80 a barrel — the highest price since oil futures began trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange in 1983. U.S. light crude was at $53.64, up 33 cents on the day.

Higher energy prices have caused investors to worry that they will bite into corporate profits and consumer spending.

Shares of Home Depot Inc. (HD) rose 2.7 percent, supporting the Dow, after weekly financial newspaper Barron's said shares of the largest U.S. home improvement retailer may extend gains amid solid expected growth in sales of homes and home improvement products. Home Depot rose $1.05 to $40.07 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Shares of Global Crossing Ltd. (GLBCE) dropped 19.46 percent after the telecommunications company said on Friday it would cut 15 percent of its work force, in a restructuring aimed at curbing losses as it negotiates with lenders for much-needed financing. Global Crossing fell $3.09 to $12.79 on the Nasdaq.

Shares of Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN) fell 0.73 percent, or 16 cents, to $21.89 after Deutsche Bank lowered its investment rating on the communications chip maker to "sell" from "buy."

Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. (SIRI) fell 4.86 percent, or 18 cents, to $3.52. Weekly financial newspaper Barron's said shares of Sirius look pricey despite the company's new pact with shock jock Howard Stern to air his program starting in 2006.

Shares of Lone Star Technologies Inc. (LSS) fell 23 percent, or $8.95, to $29.25 after the oil equipment maker said it expects third-quarter net income of 85 cents to 95 cents a share on higher costs of raw materials such as steel.

Drug stocks also helped lift the Dow as they made some recovery from recent falls. Merck & Co. (MRK) rose 40 cents to $30.74, while Pfizer Inc. (PFE) gained 51 cents to $30.31.

Advancing and declining issues were nearly even on the New York Stock Exchange, while decliners held a small lead on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Volume was extremely light.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 1.91, or 0.33 percent, to 577.56.

Overseas, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.3 percent, France's CAC-40 fell 0.3 percent, and Germany's DAX index rose 0.1 percent. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.