New York - US stocks rose modestly on Monday after positive Chinese trade and inflation data, but investor enthusiasm was tempered before speeches on the economy by top Federal Reserve officials.
In the wake of the unexpectedly strong November jobs report, investors will monitor central bankers' comments for clues on when the Fed may begin to slow its stimulus.
The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee will hold its final meeting of 2013 on December 17-18.
Jeffrey Lacker, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, will speak at an economic outlook conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, at 12:30 p.m. (19:30 SA time).
St. Louis Fed Bank President James Bullard will also speak on the economy in St. Louis in the afternoon, and Dallas Fed Bank President Richard Fisher will speak in Chicago in the evening.
“A lot of Fed-speak today, and likely they are going to throw some cold water on all of this and talk about tapering, getting the market prepared for that inevitability,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.
“There is no question - at some point, there is tapering. Whether that is December or March or June, it's coming. All the Fed-speak helps the market get prepared for that.”
Equities received support from data that showed China's exports beat forecasts, pointing to stabilisation of the world's second-largest economy, while annual consumer inflation unexpectedly slowed in November and served to ease market fears of any imminent policy tightening.
The S&P 500 scored its best day in nearly a month on Friday following a robust jobs report that gave traders confidence the economic recovery was gaining strength.
The S&P 500 is up nearly 27 percent for the year and is on track for its biggest annual gain since 1998.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 11.53 points or 0.07 percent, to 16,031.73.
The S&P 500 gained 3.73 points or 0.21 percent, to 1,808.82.
The Nasdaq Composite added 4.58 points or 0.11 percent, to 4,067.05.
Sysco Corp jumped 12.5 percent to $38.60 and ranked as the S&P 500's best performer.
The stock rallied after the food distributor said it would buy rival US Foods for about $3.5 billion and assume about $4.7 billion in debt to create a company with about $65 billion in annual revenue.
But McDonald's Corp curbed the Dow's gain as it fell 1 percent to $95.79 after the fast-food restaurant chain reported weaker-than-expected global sales at established restaurants for November, hurt by a sharp drop in comparable-store sales in the United States.
Abercrombie & Fitch lost 3 percent to $33.84 after the struggling teen apparel retailer said it will extend chief executive Mike Jeffries' contract by at least a year after it expires in February, days after a shareholder urged the company to replace him. - Reuters