NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The major U.S. stock averages finished slightly higher on Monday ahead of what's expected to be a tight presidential election on Tuesday. Trading was light with volume totaling just 2.92 billion on New York Stock Exchange and 1.49 billion on the Nasdaq. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added more than 19 points, or 0.15%, to close at 13,112. The blue-chip index, which has fallen in each of the past two weeks, began the session up a little over 7% in 2012. Within the Dow, winners outpaced losers, 17 to 13. The biggest percentage gainers were Caterpillar ( CAT), Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), and Walt Disney ( DIS). The biggest Dow laggards were Bank of America ( BAC), Coca-Cola ( KO), and UnitedHealth ( UNH). The S&P 500 rose a little more than 3 points, or 0.22%, to settle at 1417.26, while the Nasdaq jumped more than 17 points, or 0.59%, to finish at 2999.66. The weakest sectors in the broad market were utilities, financials, consumer non-cyclicals and services. Consumer cyclicals, technology and capital goods were areas of strength. Apple ( AAPL) was a bright spot with shares rising 1.4% after the company said it sold a better-than-expected three million iPad minis over the weekend. "The U.S. economy is still operating distinctly below its potential and unemployment is right on the historical cusp of assuring any challenging party a solid victory. A loss on Tuesday for either party -- and one will certainly draw the short straw -- is going to go down very poorly indeed among the faithful and their representatives in government," commented Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx. "That's a problem for the country, because there is a lot of heavy lifting to be done in the coming months with respect to the package of tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff." "Markets remain transfixed by politics. With so many close races in the U.S., the threat of multiple hanging chad counts might delay the election result beyond Tuesday. Some states like Ohio are still changing the rules, which may lead to legal challenges," noted Paul Donovan, global economist at UBS.
The major U.S. equity averages finished last week's truncated trading week -- when exchanges were closed for several days because of Hurricane Sandy -- with steep losses on Friday as the October jobs report fell flat ahead of the election. On Monday, the Institute for Supply Management said its services index fell to 54.2 in October from 55.1 in September, vs. the average economist estimate of 54.5 for last month. "October's U.S. ISM non-manufacturing index provides more evidence that GDP will grow at an annualized rate of around 2% in the fourth quarter. The decline in the index ... reversed only part of the previous month's gain to leave the index with a small upward trend," noted Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. Overseas markets were in the red Monday, as investors around the world anxiously awaited the outcome of the U.S. elections. The FTSE 100 in London closed down 0.5%, while the DAX in Germany lost 0.51%, with Greece getting ready to approach parliament with a new austerity plan, a sequential increase in Spanish jobless claims last month, and the European Central Bank assessing whether it has been too generous on terms on Spanish bank loans. Japan's Nikkei average finished down 0.48% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed down 0.47% Monday as a private study of China's services sector declined in October. Gold for December delivery rose $8 to settle at $1,683.20 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while December crude oil contracts added 79 cents at $85.65 a barrel. The benchmark 10-year Treasury rose 10/32, pushing the yield down to 1.685%. The dollar was up 0.22%, according to the
U.S. dollar index. In corporate news, Tesla ( TSLA) shares popped nearly 9% after the electric vehicle company announced that its manufacturing rate is now at over 200 cars a week or 10,000 cars a year, which is at the critical threshold needed for Tesla to generate positive operating cash flow. The company also reported wider-than-expected third-quarter loss and higher than expected revenue.
IntercontinentalExchange ( ICE) posted lower-than-expected third-quarter revenue amid a slump in credit default swap activity and a decline in trading volume for over-the-counter North American natural gas and power contracts. Earnings per share beat expectations amid expense declines and a more favorable tax rate. Shares rose 2.6%. Rockwell Automation ( ROK) booked fiscal fourth-quarter results that exceeded Wall Street targets and provided fiscal 2013 guidance with a midpoint that surpassed expectations, as organic sales increased 5% in the quarter. Shares gained more than 3%. Humana ( HUM), the health insurer, hiked its 2012 forecast and announced the acquisition of Metropolitan Health Networks ( MDF). Humana shares rose less than 1%, while Metropolitan Health's stock advanced 2.8%. Time Warner Cable ( TWC) posted third-quarter results that missed Wall Street expectations after it lost more video subscribers than expected. Shares dropped 6.7%. Transocean ( RIG) shares leapt nearly 6% after the offshore contract drilling services provider reported better than expected third-quarter earnings. Shares of Japanese automaker Toyota ( TM) surged nearly 5% after the company raised its full-year earnings forecast. Stifel Financial ( SF) agreed to acquire KBW ( KBW) for roughly $575 million. The deal creates a middle-market investment bank with a focus on the financial services industry. Stifel shares added more than 2%, while KBW's stock jumped 7%. BioMarin Pharmaceutical ( BMRN) shares soared more than 31% after the company said patients with a rare genetic disorder known as Morquio A Syndrome were able to walk further following treatment with the company's experimental drug GALNS, satisfying the main goal of a late-stage study. --Written by Andrea Tse in New York. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse. Follow @Commodity_Bull