NEW YORK — US stocks managed modest gains Monday as Wall Street awaited the unofficial kickoff of the fourth-quarter earnings season, which came shortly after the closing bell.
After slipping into negative territory in early trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the session up 32.77 points (0.26 percent) to 12,392.69.
The tech-dominated Nasdaq Composite added 2.34 points (0.09 percent) to 2,676.56.
The S&P 500, a broader measure of the markets, rose 2.89 points (0.23 percent) to 1,280.70.
"Blue chips got a modest boost from industrials, but the S&P 500 and Nasdaq saw only slight gains as traders held their cards close to the vest ahead of the unofficial start to earnings season that began after today's closing bell with Dow member Alcoa posting mixed 4Q results," Charles Schwab analysts said in a client note.
Aluminum giant Alcoa, the first of the Dow's 30 blue-chip stocks to report quarterly earnings, posted a loss for the final quarter of 2011 of $191 million as revenue declined and cash was set aside for restructuring to counter lower metal prices. Full-year profit more than doubled.
The company announced last week it would close 12 percent of its global smelting capacity, and on Monday said it would close plants in Italy and Spain.
Alcoa shares jumped 2.9 percent to $9.42 before the announcement was made.
Europe's debt crisis was on Wall Street's radar, but traders appeared to shrug off pledges by France and Germany to speed up measures to address the problems.
The sole US major economic news of the day was a 9.9 percent surge in consumer credit in November, the biggest increase in a decade.
Credit card spending was up 8.5 percent, while non-revolving loans, including university and automobile loans, jumped 107 percent.
Bristol-Myers Squibb shares shed 0.9 percent. The drug maker announced Saturday it had agreed to buy Inhibitex, a biotech firm specializing in medicines for hepatitis C, for about $2.5 billion in cash.
Inhibitex soared 140.1 percent to $23.70.
Cellphone maker Motorola Mobility fell 0.7 percent after warning fourth-quarter earnings would disappoint.
Automakers were in focus as the annual Detroit auto show got on the road. General Motors slipped 0.4 percent, while Ford Motor gained 0.8 percent.
Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury held steady at 1.96 percent from Friday, while the 30-year yield edged up to 3.03 percent from 3.02 percent.
Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.