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US STOCKS-Wall St gains on China, reaction to Fed speakers muted

Chuck Mikolajczak
Monday, 9 Dec 2013 | 2:13 PM ET

* Investors parse Fed speeches for taper-timing clues

* Slower China inflation eases worries of tighter policy

* McDonald's November sales miss estimates on U.S. weakness

* Indexes up: Dow 0.19 pct; S&P 500 0.31 pct; Nasdaq 0.19 pct

NEW YORK, Dec 9 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks advanced modestly on Monday after positive Chinese trade and inflation data, while remarks by top Federal Reserve officials about the outlook for slowing the Fed's stimulus had little impact on the market.

After the strong November jobs report last week, speculation grew the central bank might slow its $85 billion a month in bond buying to stimulate the economy sooner than expected. The two speakers did little to lift the uncertainty around when the U.S. central bank would act.

Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker, an outspoken critic of the Fed's monetary easing, said further monetary stimulus is unlikely to have a lasting effect on the economy and would make it harder to eventually wind it down.

St. Louis Fed Bank President James Bullard said "improvements in the U.S. job market make reductions to the Federal Reserve's massive bond-buying program more likely." The labor market's gains suggest the U.S. central bank could start small tapering and reassess in the first half of 2014.

Dallas Fed Bank President Richard Fisher is due to speak twice today in Chicago.

"There is no question - at some point, there is tapering. Whether that is December or March or June, it's coming. All the Fed-speak helps the market get prepared for that," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

"It certainly is not going to be a surprise to anybody when it does occur."

The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee will hold its final meeting of 2013 on Dec. 17-18.

Equities received support from data that showed China's exports beat forecasts, pointing to stabilization of the world's second-largest economy, while annual consumer inflation unexpectedly slowed in November and served to ease market fears of any imminent policy tightening.

The S&P 500 scored its best day in nearly a month on Friday following a robust jobs report that gave traders confidence the economic recovery was gaining strength. The S&P 500 is up 27 percent for the year and is on track for its biggest annual gain since 1998.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 30.22 points or 0.19 percent, to 16,050.42, the S&P 500 gained 5.6 points or 0.31 percent, to 1,810.69 and the Nasdaq Composite added 7.746 points or 0.19 percent, to 4,070.267.

Sysco Corp jumped 11.6 percent to $38.30 and ranked as the S&P 500's biggest percentage gainer. The stock rallied after the food distributor said it would buy rival US Foods for about $3.5 billion and assume about $4.7 billion in debt to create a company with about $65 billion in annual revenue.

But McDonald's Corp curbed the Dow's gain as it fell 1 percent to $95.81 after the fast-food restaurant chain reported weaker-than-expected global sales at established restaurants for November, hurt by a sharp drop in comparable-store sales in the United States.

Abercrombie & Fitch lost 3 percent to $33.84 after the struggling teen apparel retailer said it will extend Chief Executive Mike Jeffries' contract by at least a year after it expires in February, days after a shareholder urged the company to replace him.