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Updated from 4:07 p.m. EST

Tech shares posted modest gains while blue chips ended narrowly mixed after a back-and-forth session Monday, as falling oil prices helped temper lukewarm earnings and economic data.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

slipped 3.76 points, or 0.03%, to 12,086.50. Components

McDonald's

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,

Hewlett-Packard

(HPQ) - Get HP Inc. (HPQ) Report

and

General Motors

(GM) - Get General Motors Company (GM) Report

finished with gains of 1.1% or more, lending limited support.

The

S&P 500

TheStreet Recommends

was up 0.59 point, or 0.04%, at 1377.93, and the

Nasdaq Composite

gained 13.15 points, or 0.56%, to 2363.77 as

American Power Conversion

( APCC) surged 26.4%.

"Many investors are expecting that the markets have essentially whistled past the graveyard of poor September and October performances," said Paul Nolte, director of investments with Hinsdale Associates. "Once we begin November, the seasonality factors begin to favor stocks. The focus has suddenly shifted to the economy and by extension the impact upon earnings."

Volume was listless to start the week. About 2.22 billion shares changed hands on the

New York Stock Exchange

. Advancers beat decliners by a 6-to-5 margin. Volume on the Nasdaq was roughly 1.70 billion shares, with winners outpacing losers 8 to 7.

By sector, tech stocks were the big winners of the session. The Philadelphia Semiconductor Sector index was higher by 1.1%, the Nasdaq Computer index rose 1%, and the Amex Computer Tech index gained 0.8%. Oil stocks were hit hardest, with the Amex Oil index losing 1.6%.

Earlier, the market was sluggish after getting a scare from

Wal-Mart

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over the weekend. The retailer said U.S. same-store sales for the four-week period ending Friday rose only 0.5%, just days after indicating that comps for October were tracking closer to September's 1.3% rise.

A closely watched industry metric, same-store sales measure the year-over-year change at stores that have been open for more than one year. Shares of Wal-Mart shed $1.20, or 2.4%, to finish at $49.53, making it one of 14 Dow decliners.

One of the factors helping equities rise off their lows was a sharp drop in crude prices. Oil sank below $60 a barrel as fears subsided regarding a possible planned attack by insurgents on Persian Gulf facilities. Oil tumbled by $2.39 to close at $58.36 a barrel, the lowest level for the December contract since July 2005.

"The string of higher highs and higher lows is intact," said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist with Cantor Fitzgerald. "We'd need considerably more weakness just to move to the lower end of the recent uptrend."

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Among the earnings reports, Dow member

Verizon

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posted third-quarter earnings of $1.92 billion, or 66 cents a share, up nearly 3% from the same quarter a year ago. Excluding items, the company earned $2 billion, or 68 cents a share, beating the Thomson First Call average estimate.

Revenue jumped 26% to $23.25 billion and was also ahead of forecasts. Still, Verizon's shares fell $1.19, or 3.1%, to close at $37.65, amid concerns about weakness for the telecom company's landline business.

Clear Channel

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hit third-quarter earnings targets. The San Antonio, Texas, radio station operator made $186 million, or 38 cents a share, for the quarter ended Sept. 30, up from the year-ago continuing operations profit of $172 million, or 32 cents a share.

Revenue rose 7% from a year ago to $1.79 billion. Analysts were looking for a 37-cent profit on sales of $1.77 billion. Shares of Clear Channel gave back 23 cents, or 0.7%, to $34.47.

SkyWest

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matched third-quarter earnings estimates but came in light on sales. The St. George, Utah, commuter airline made $41 million, or 63 cents a share, for the quarter ended Sept. 30, up from the year-ago $30 million, or 51 cents a share. Revenue rose to $792 million from $497 million a year earlier. SkyWest added 79 cents, or 3%, to $26.90.

Sysco

(SYY) - Get Sysco Corporation Report

beat fiscal first-quarter financial targets. The Houston-based food-service giant made $229 million, or 37 cents a share, before an accounting change in the quarter ended Sept. 30. That's up from the year-ago $199 million, or 31 cents a share. Sales rose to $8.67 billion from $8.01 billion a year earlier. Sysco was higher by 30 cents, or 0.9%, to finish at $34.58.

As for the day's economic data, personal spending rose 0.1% last month, about half of what was expected, the Commerce Department said. Income rose 0.5%, topping the 0.3% consensus estimate.

"In September, the drop in gas prices facilitated a 0.4% rebound in real spending, with durable goods -- mostly autos -- the prime beneficiary, jumping 2.1%," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist with High Frequency Economics. "Looking ahead, we expect decent consumption data for both

October and November, but the gas-price effect will then fade."

After the release, the 10-year Treasury was unchanged in price, yielding 4.67%. The dollar rose against the yen and euro.

The economic calendar is full to bursting this week. The government will post its nonfarm payrolls report on Friday, the Institute of Supply Management will release its manufacturing index on Wednesday, and a report on consumer confidence is due Tuesday. In addition, retailers will post same-store sales results for October on Thursday.

"There are a lot of economic data due out this week," Pado said. "Economists will have their 'Goldilocks' scenario tested."

Overseas, equities were uniformly lower. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei fell 1.9% overnight to 16,351. In Europe, London's FTSE 100 gave back 0.6% to 6127, and Germany's Xetra DAX slid 0.1% to 6258.

Meanwhile, gold futures added $6.40 to $607.40 an ounce, and silver rose 17 cents to finish at $12.25 an ounce.

On Tuesday, earnings reports are expected from

Procter & Gamble

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,

U.S. Steel

(X) - Get United States Steel Corporation Report

,

Eastman Kodak

( EK),

Valero

(VLO) - Get Valero Energy Corporation Report

,

Marathon Oil

(MRO) - Get Marathon Oil Corporation (MRO) Report

,

Qwest Communications

(Q)

and

Biogen Idec

(BIIB) - Get Biogen Inc. Report

.