Wall Street opens higher as earnings season begins

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Wall Street was higher on Monday as investors braced for corporate earnings season, with Alcoa set to post first-quarter results after the market closes.

Expectations for profit growth are low as companies struggle with a weak global economy, falling commodity prices and a stronger dollar.

Earnings at S&P 500 companies are expected to have declined 7.6 per cent on average in the first quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Big bank earnings are also on the cards through the week, starting with JPMorgan Chase & Co on Wednesday.

"We're in a bit of a holding pattern until earnings, which kick off with Alcoa tonight, but more importantly the banks will start to report by mid-week," said Aaron Clark, a portfolio manager at GW&K Investment Management in Boston. "That will be the next key event, which moves the market one way or the other," he said.

At 9:36 a.m. ET (9:36 p.m Singapore time), the Dow Jones industrial average was up 90.12 points, or 0.51 per cent, at 17,667.08, the S&P 500 was up 9.07 points, or 0.44 per cent, at 2,056.67 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 17.76 points, or 0.37 per cent, at 4,868.44.

All 10 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 0.87 per cent rise in the materials sector. Alcoa's shares were up 2.7 per cent at US$9.62.

Investors are also looking for clarity on monetary policy, with U.S. Federal Reserve appearing more cautious on rate hikes than the market had expected.

U.S. President Barack Obama will meet with Fed Chair Janet Yellen on Monday to discuss the economy and Wall Street reform.

Oil, which has been a big influence on the stock market this year, was slightly higher ahead of next Sunday's meeting by producers aimed at freezing output.