NEW YORK (REUTERS) - US stocks were slightly higher on Monday as oil prices rose and as investors prepared for big banks to kick off the first-quarter earnings season later in the week.
JPMorgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo are scheduled to report quarterly earnings on Thursday and could throw light on the US banking industry's performance amid a rally in financial shares since the election of President Donald Trump.
Investors are keenly watching the quarterly earnings to justify lofty market valuations following the post-election rally, sparked off by bets that Trump would introduce pro-growth policies.
Earnings of S&P 500 companies are estimated to have risen 10.1 per cent in the first three months of the year, the most since the fourth-quarter of 2014. The index is currently trading at 17.4 times forward earnings estimates, above its long-term average of 15, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
"It looks like the start of a quiet holiday week after an underwhelming Friday, where much could have happened but didn't," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital in Bernardsville, New Jersey.
"Unless there is a significant headline to derail what looks to be a quiet morning, I think the focus is going to be on earnings and what the companies say."
Thursday will be the last trading day of the week on Wall Street ahead of the Good Friday holiday.
At 9:36 a.m. ET (9:36 p.m Singapore time), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 32.18 points, or 0.16 per cent, at 20,688.28, the S&P 500 was up 4.49 points, or 0.19 per cent, at 2,360.03 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 13.32 points, or 0.23 per cent, at 5,891.13.
Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 0.43 percent gain in energy following a more than 1 percent rise in oil prices.