U.S. Markets Pull Ahead Though Geopolitical Threats Confine Gains

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock markets pulled ahead to finish Monday's session higher, though gains were constricted as international news tussled with positive homegrown developments. Wall Street hovered close to flat as geopolitical concerns in the Middle East and Eastern Europe counteracted encouraging economic reports and positive deal news.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged 0.03% higher to 16,781.39, while the S&P 500 fared a little better, up 0.08% to 1,937.78. The Nasdaq gained 0.24% to 4,321.11.

Limiting gains was news the U.S. and Iran are expected to begin talks this week on how to counter the growing insurgency threat in Iraq. The Wall Street Journal reported radical Sunni militia claim to have executed hundreds of Shiite Iraqi soldiers. Meanwhile, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, has reportedly seized control of the town of Tal Afar in northwest Iraq.

In Ukraine, in one of the deadliest events in the country's escalating crisis, a Ukrainian military plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists over the weekend, killing all 49 people on board.

Piper Jaffray technical analyst Craig Johnson wrote that the impact of all historical Middle Eastern conflicts since 1970 shows the S&P 500 tends to trade modestly lower at the beginning of these conflicts, but losses ahead of the conflict are typically quickly recaptured and the S&P is generally higher three months later.

The Federal Open Market Committee meeting kicks off on Tuesday, with a rates announcement expected on Wednesday. Officials are widely expected to continue the current pace of tapering to their asset purchases by $10 billion a month. There will also be more scrutiny on the timing and language of the committee's first rate hike plans.

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