NEW YORK - U.S. stocks inched mostly higher in light trading Monday as investors shrugged off falling energy prices, a plunging Russian ruble, and fears that Greece could renege on its bailout.
Stocks wavered throughout the day, with the Dow Jones industrial average moving between gains and losses several times. In the end, the blue-chip index closed down slightly, but other major indexes recorded tiny gains.
"Most of the bad news came from overseas ... and that makes the U.S. market more attractive," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank. "Investors are shifting money from overseas."
The Dow fell 15.48 points, or 0.09 percent, to 18,038.23. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.05 points to 4,806.91. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.80 points, or 0.09 percent, to 2,090.57.
With few economic or corporate developments in the United States, investors focused on news that Greece will have to call snap elections next month that could bring more economic turmoil to the country. The opposition Syriza party, which is against the terms of the international financial bailout of the country, is leading in the polls.
The Athens exchange closed with a loss of 4 percent after falling as much as 11 percent earlier. Several European markets also slumped, with Italy's benchmark index losing 1.1 percent.
In Russia, the ruble fell 8 percent against the U.S. dollar after a rally last week. Russian monetary officials have made stabilizing the currency a priority amid slumping oil revenues and unease about the economy's outlook.
Despite the troubles developing abroad for several weeks now, U.S. stocks have been rising on optimism here. On Monday, six of 10 industry sectors in the S&P 500 rose, led by a 1.1 percent gain in utilities.
John Manley, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo Fund Management, said he expects that stocks are being pushed higher, in part, by what he calls "sleepy heads," investors who tend to put off plowing money into IRAs until the closing days of each year.
Among stocks making news, Gilead Sciences rose $3.51 to $97.30 for a gain of 3.7 percent, one of the biggest in the S&P 500. The biotechnology company expanded an agreement with a Johnson & Johnson unit to develop and sell an HIV treatment.
Manitowoc Co. rose $1.87, or 9 percent, to $22.79, on news that activist investor Carl Icahn took a 7.8 percent stake in the crane maker and is pushing for the company to split into two.
Benchmark U.S. crude dropped $1.12 to $53.61 a barrel in New York. In other futures trading on the NYMEX, wholesale gasoline fell 5.6 cents to close at $1.45 a gallon. Heating oil fell 5.9 cents to close at $1.85 a gallon. Natural gas rose 18.2 cents to close at $3.19 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Gold lost $13.40 to $1,181.90 an ounce. Silver fell 37 cents to $15.78 an ounce. Copper edged up less than a penny to $2.82 a pound.
The dollar rose to 120.71 yen from 120.35 Friday. The euro edged down to $1.2153, from Friday's $1.2205.