Stocks Modestly Higher; Oil Prices Down

(AP) -- Banks and other financial companies led U.S. stocks modestly higher Monday, nudging the stock market to another record high.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index and Dow Jones industrial average closed at new highs as the market extended its gains from last week.

Investors continued to bid up bank shares as interest rates rose. Banks benefit from higher rates, which can translate into higher profits from lending money.

The rise in bond yields also weighed on utilities, real estate companies and other bond proxies. Big retailers like were among the biggest decliners.

"This is really a day which is characterized by rates moving and equities being influenced by interest rates," said Bill Northey, senior vice president with U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

The S&P 500 index rose 3.64 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,503.87. The Dow gained 63.01 points, or 0.3 percent, to 22,331.35. Both indexes closed at record highs on Friday.

The Nasdaq composite added 6.17 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,454.64. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 9.37 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,441.08.

Trading was subdued through much of the day as the major indexes mostly held on to slight gains.

Investors were looking ahead to the latest two-day policy meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve, which begins Tuesday. Forecasters expect the Fed to leave interest rates unchanged and stick to plans to raise rates in December. But traders will be listening for any indications that the central bank could move sooner on a rate increase and for details on the timing for when the Fed might start shrinking its multitrillion-dollar stockpile of bonds.

"Rates have started to move higher and rate-sensitive sectors have started to respond favorably," said Northey, noting that the funds futures market suggests that there is now a two-in-three chance that the Fed will raise interest rates again before the end of the year, up from a one-in-three chance earlier.

Traders sent bond prices lower as the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.23 percent from 2.20 percent late Friday. The yield on the 2-year treasury note climbed to 1.40 percent from 1.38 percent.

Citigroup was among the big banks to post gains. The stock added $1.56, or 2.3 percent, to $70.60, while Wells Fargo & Co. rose $1.05, or 2 percent, to $52.71.

Industrials stocks were also big gainers, led by defense contractor Northrop Grumman, which agreed to buy aerospace manufacturer Orbital ATK for $7.8 billion. Shares in Northrop rose $8.94, or 3.3 percent, to $275.97. Orbital soared $22.21, or 20.2 percent, to $132.25.

Investors also cheered another corporate combination.

Silver Spring Networks surged 23.8 percent after the energy networking platform provider agreed to be acquired by Itron in a deal the companies valued at $830 million. Silver Spring shares gained $3.10 to $16.10. Itron climbed $3.70, or 5.1 percent, to $76.50.

Several big retailers were down sharply, including, which slid $12.60, or 1.3 percent, to $974.19.

Toy makers Mattel and Hasbro slumped following published reports saying that Toys R Us may file for bankruptcy protection before this holiday season. Mattel lost 99 cents, or 6.2 percent, to $14.87, while Hasbro fell $1.60, or 1.7 percent, to $93.24.

Energy futures were mixed.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 2 cents to settle at $49.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dropped 14 cents to $55.48 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to $1.67 a gallon. Heating oil fell 2 cents to $1.78 a gallon. Natural gas jumped 12 cents, or 4 percent, to $3.15 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold fell $14.40, or 1.1 percent, to $1,310.80 an ounce. Silver slumped 55 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $17.16 an ounce. Copper added 2 cents to $2.97 a pound.

The dollar rose to 111.47 yen from 110.88 yen on Friday. The euro strengthened to $1.1953 from $1.1938.

Global stock markets closed mostly higher.

In Europe, Germany's DAX rose 0.3 percent, while France's CAC 40 gained 0.3 percent. London's FTSE 100 added 0.5 percent. In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.3 percent, while Seoul's Kospi gained 1.3 percent. Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 rose 0.4 percent. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.