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US: Wall St rises after Greek elections; energy climbs

US stocks edged higher on Monday as investors brushed off fears that a leftist victory in Greece would bring fresh crisis to the Eurozone and energy stocks advanced.

[NEW YORK] US stocks edged higher on Monday as investors brushed off fears that a leftist victory in Greece would bring fresh crisis to the Eurozone and energy stocks advanced.

The leftist, anti-bailout Syriza party won decisively in Greek parliamentary elections on Sunday, after running a campaign promising to take on Greece's international lenders and bring about an end to austerity measures.

While the United States has limited direct exposure to Greece's relatively small economy, extended volatility in the region could hurt multinational companies. "There was a lot of trepidation in the market going into the Greek election ... but by this morning the Syriza win was priced into the market already," said Robert Francello, head of equity trading for Apex Capital in San Francisco.

Energy stocks led gains on major US indices after Abdulla al-Badri, Opec's secretary-general, told Reuters on Monday that oil prices may have reached a floor and could move higher very soon.

Chevron added 1.9 per cent to US$108.88 while Exxon Mobil gained 1 per cent to US$91.76 as the biggest lifts to the S&P 500. The S&P energy index rose 1.4 per cent.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 6.1 points, or 0.03 per cent, to 17,678.7, the S&P 500 gained 5.27 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 2,057.09 and the Nasdaq Composite added 13.88 points, or 0.29 per cent, to 4,771.76.

In deal news, Rock-Tenn Co and MeadWestvaco Corp said they would combine to form a packaging company worth US$16 billion, with MeadWestvaco shareholders owning a majority stake.

Rock-Tenn shares jumped 6.1 per cent to US$66.85 while MeadWestvaco surged 14 per cent to US$51.35 as the S&P 500's biggest percentage gainer.

DR Horton Inc climbed 5.5 per cent to US$24.38 after the homebuilder's revenue growth beat expectations, boosted by home deliveries. An index of homebuilder stocks rose 1.9 per cent.

With 19 per cent of S&P 500 companies having reported earnings, 71.6 per cent have topped expectations, while 54.7 per cent have beaten revenue forecasts, according to Thomson Reuters data. That compares with the long-term average of 63 per cent for earnings and 61 per cent for revenue.

Ocwen Financial Corp jumped 8.8 per cent to US$6.91 after the company paid US$2.5 million in penalties to the California Department of Business Oversight, which had threatened to suspend Ocwen's license to operate in the state. About 32 million Ocwen shares exchanged hands, making it one of the New York Stock Exchange's most active.

After the closing bell, Microsoft shares lost 3 per cent to US$45.60 while United Technologies fell 2.5 per cent to US$115.80 after their quarterly results.

NYSE advancers outnumbered decliners 2,111 to 952, for a 2.22-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,785 issues rose and 987 fell, for a 1.81-to-1 ratio.

The S&P 500 posted 38 new 52-week highs and 8 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 80 new highs and 58 new lows.

Volume was light, with many market participants leaving early due to a massive snowstorm hitting the US Northeast. About 6.27 billion shares traded on US exchanges, below the 7.26 billion average this month, according to BATS Global Markets.