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Two upbeat economic reports helped pull U.S. stocks into the green on Monday despite worries about Iraq.
As of 10:00 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.19 point, or 0.00%, to 16776, the S&P 500 advanced 3.5 points, or 0.18%, to 1940 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 10.3 points, or 0.24%, to 4321.
Geopolitical volatility is morphing into anxiety on Wall Street. The situation in Iraq continued escalating over the weekend, with an offshoot of terrorist group Al Qaeda holding control of numerous cities and marching closer to Baghdad. In a sign of the struggle, the U.S. State Department requested assistance from the military in defending the embassy in the Iraqi capital.
"Iraq is still weighing heavily on investors’ minds," Michael Block, chief strategist at Rhino Trading Partners, said in an e-mail,adding, "There is very real concern that ISIS will march on Baghdad."
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The tumult in oil-rich region sent crude prices climbing. The benchmark U.S. contract recently rose 12 cents, or 0.11%, to $107.03 a barrel. It trades near a six-month high. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline rose 0.03% to $3.059 a gallon. Gold, seen as a safe haven, advanced $7.10, or 0.57%, to $1,282 a troy ounce.
Meanwhile, on the corporate front, Medtronic (MDT) said it would buy Covidien (COV) in a deal valued at $42.9 billion. Hillshire Brands' (HSH) board of directors said it advised withdrawing an offer to buy Pinnacle Foods (PF) on the back of Tyson Foods' (TSN) plans to buy Hillshire. Level 3 Communications (LVLT) said it would purchase tw telecom (TWTC) in a deal worth about $5.6 billion.
On the economic front, a reading on manufacturing from the New York Fed shows activity in the region accelerated to 19.28 in June, beating consensus estimates of a drop to 15, from 19.01 the month prior. Readings above 0 point to expansion, while those below indicate contraction.
The National Association of Home Builders’ sentiment index climbed to 49 in June, beating estimates of 47, and higher than the reading of 45 in May. The measure is the highest since January.
The International Monetary Fund also pared down its 2014 U.S. GDP forecast to an annual rate of 2% from 2.8% earlier.