Wall Street drifts higher ahead of factory data

A file picture of a trader on the floor of NYSE. PHOTO:AFP
A file picture of a trader on the floor of NYSE. PHOTO:AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - U.S. stocks were marginally higher on Monday as investors assessed factory activity data from China and Germany, and ahead of U.S. manufacturing data.

China's official factory data on Sunday showed activity unexpectedly shrank for a third straight month in October, though the contraction was modest.

A private survey showed on Monday that the pace of decline in China's factory activity has slowed, while Germany reported better-than-expected manufacturing activity for October.

Data is expected to show U.S. factory activity fell in October. The Institute for Supply Management's index of U.S. manufacturing activity is expected to have slipped to 50.0 from 50.2 in September. The data is due at 10:00 a.m. ET (1000 pm Singapore time). "We don't really see much of a clear direction this morning," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

At 9:37 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 54.18 points, or 0.31 per cent, at 17,717.72. The S&P 500 was up 6.61 points, or 0.32 per cent, at 2,085.97 and the Nasdaq composite index was up 13.18 points, or 0.26 per cent, at 5,066.93.

Eight of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher, with the health care sector's 0.67 per cent rise leading the advancers. Shares of Abbvie were up 4.3 per cent at $62.09, giving the biggest boost to the S&P 500.

"You have a lot of data coming down the pipe this week and you're kind of in a no-man's land, waiting for information,"Brown said.

As the U.S. earnings seasons begins to wind down, investors'focus turns to economic data, including Friday's crucial monthly jobs report, for a clearer picture of the state of the economy leading up to the Federal Reserve's meeting in December.

The Fed, which kept rates unchanged at its October meeting, said that it could raise rates in December if the economy proves resilient enough to sustain higher rates.

U.S. stocks ended October on Friday with their strongest monthly performance in four years.

Visa was down about 3.1 percent at $75.14 after offering to buy Visa Europe for as much as $23.34 billion. Visa also reported a lower-than-expected quarterly profit. The stock was the biggest drag on the Dow and the S&P 500.