U.S. stocks closed narrowly higher Monday, as investors prepare for a deluge of earnings while digesting Chinese economic data and a tumble in energy prices.
"I think it's earnings-driven," said J.J. Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.
Over a fifth of S&P 500 companies are scheduled release quarterly results this week. Banking giant Morgan Stanley posted earnings per share 20 cents below estimates before the bell, with revenue also disappointing.
"Morgan Stanley earnings were disappointing," Kinahan said. "Halliburton was expected to be poor; somehow they managed to do worse than that."
IBM is due to report after the bell.
"We're waiting for ... tech earnings this week because they are a window into whether or not companies are spending," said Kim Forrest, senior equity analyst at Fort Pitt Capital. "IBM is really good in that they cut through services, software and hardware."
Other tech giants due to report this week include Yahoo, Google's parent company Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon.com.
Earnings reports thus far "have been more of the same from last quarter," said Nick Raich, CEO of The Earnings Scout. "It's all about the earnings per share."
Raich also said that, of the 58 companies that had reported as of Friday's close, 71 percent had beaten Wall Street's estimates for EPS, but only 47 percent had beaten on revenue. "The theme for 2015 has been strong earnings and weak revenues," he said.
U.S. equities opened lower, with all major indexes falling about 0.3 percent, before trading in a narrow range for most of the session. The Nasdaq Composite rose as it tracked iShares Biotechnology ETF (IBB), which rose more than 2 percent at its highs.
IBB intraday chartSource: FactSet
S&P and the Dow traded slightly lower for most of the session before eking out slight gains.
"2040 was support (for the S&P) for most of 2015; now it's resistance," said Adam Sarhan, CEO of Sarhan Capital.
Overnight, China reported a third-quarter gross domestic growth figure of 6.9 percent, slightly above the expected 6.8 percent, but also its lowest in six years. China also reported industrial production rose 5. percent, below the expected 6 percent increase.
"We're less concerned about the global growth story than we were in August," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. "It's not to say China's out of the woods, but it's stabilizing."
China's growth data took its toll on the commodities space, which saw U.S. crude futures close down 2.90 percent at $45.89 a barrel, while Brent futures dropped over 3.5 percent. The energy sector in the S&P fell more than 2 percent.
"We've probably seem the lows on oil, but it's going to take some time to consolidate," said Maris Ogg, president at Tower Bridge Advisors. "The news long-term is improving, it's near-term (outlook) is still very choppy.
Gold futures also settled down $10.30 to $1,172.80 per ounce, below their 200-day moving average of $1,175.80.
Also weighing on commodities was the dollar, said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.
"The dollar's been weakening pretty steadily, so it may be overdue for a bounce," he said.