US stocks up amid cautious investing

US stocks ended slightly higher yesterday in a light-volume session as investors stayed cautious ahead of corporate earnings and key auctions for European debt this week.

Alcoa advanced 0.8 per cent to $9.50 in extended trading after the largest US aluminium producer reported fourth-quarter revenue that beat Wall Street expectations, though a plunge in aluminium prices helped push the company into a loss.

As the first company in the Dow to report results, Alcoa is seen as the unofficial start to the earnings season. In the regular session Alcoa rose three per ent to $9.43.

After breaking out of the gate with strong gains on the first day of trading in January, stocks have been confined to a tight range in daily moves and volume has been low. The S&P 500 faces strong technical resistance as it has been unable to pierce through 1,285, the closing high set in late October.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 32.62 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 12,392.69. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 2.89 points, or 0.23 per cent, to 1,280.70. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 2.34 points, or 0.09 per cent, to 2,676.56.