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Stocks Race to Positive Finish

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The major U.S. equity averages staged a late rally to secure a positive finish Monday, starting the new week with a bounce after another round of mixed quarterly results.

After taking a beating in the previous two sessions in the wake of poor earnings reports from heavyweights like Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT), the technology sector was a standout, rising nearly 1%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added more than 2 points, or 0.02%, to close at 13,346, snapping a two-day losing streak. The blue-chip index, which ran as low as 13,235 earlier in the day, is now up 9.2% so far in 2012.

Breadth was still negative within the Dow with losers outpacing winners, 18 to 12. The biggest percentage decliners were General Electric (GE), Microsoft (MSFT), and Verizon (VZ).

Blue-chip gainers included Caterpillar (CAT), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and UnitedHealth (UNH).

Shares of Caterpillar finished up 1.5% after the heavy equipment maker topped Wall Street's expectations for its third-quarter earnings but trimmed its full-year outlook to a profit of $9 to $9.25 a share on sales of roughly $66 billion. The company's prior view was for earnings of $9.60 a share on sales of $68 billion to $70 billion.

"We've seen continued economic weakening and uncertainty," said Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar's CEO, in a statement. "It's definitely impacting our business with dealers intending to lower inventories and mining customers delaying some projects and reducing orders."

The S&P 500 rose less than one point, or 0.04%, to settle at 1433.81, while the Nasdaq gained nearly 11 points, or 0.38%, to close at 3017.

The weakest sectors in the broad market were conglomerates, energy and utilities. Aside from transportation, basic materials, financials and consumer non-cyclicals finished in the green.

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