NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks Wednesday advanced for the first session this week, with oil producers leading the gains as the price of crude settled at a more-than-two-year high above $110 a barrel.
Oil costs escalated on the view that military action against Syria could be coming.
Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. were among the leaders on the Dow Jones industrial average, helping the index rise 48.38 points, or 0.3 percent, at 14,824.51.
With the price of oil at a more-than two-year high, Chevron and Exxon Mobil both rallied, the former
up 2.5 percent and the latter 2.3 percent. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, oil futures for October delivery rose $1.09, or 1 percent, to end at $110.10 a barrel.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 4.48 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,634.96. The Nasdaq composite rose 14.83 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,593.35.
PulteGroup Inc. and D.R. Horton Inc. retreated, with shares of PulteGroup off 1.4 percent and those of D.R. Horton slipping 1.2 percent in the wake of an industry report that said pending sales of existing U.S. homes declined 1.3 percent in July.
Stock reaction was muted after the data from the National Association of Realtors. The association's gauge dropped 0.4 percent in June.
Possible U.S. military action against Syria remained in the news. White House officials reportedly consulted with NATO allies and Arab nations in planning a strike against Syria, after its government allegedly used deadly chemical weapons against citizens last week.
Stocks had fallen sharply on Tuesday in a broad flight to the perceived safety of gold and bonds on concerns about the ramifications of a U.S. military intervention in Syria. But some analysts said the selloff, which extended to some emerging markets assets on Wednesday, was likely more due to profit-taking after the extended run to record highs in early August.
"My sense is that Syria is just a minor causa proxima, and that the real reason we are going lower is that the stock market's internal energy was totally used up on July 19 followed by the end of the epic 156-session 'buying stampede' that ended on Aug. 13," Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James & Associates, wrote in emailed comments about Tuesday's action.
There is little to drive the market until mid-September, with the second-quarter earnings season over and much of the country, including Congress and many investors, on vacation, Saut said.
The Dow industrials are currently positioned for a 4.1 percent monthly drop, leaving the index up more than 13 percent on the year.
"For a variety of reasons that now include Syria, the major market indices are headed for that 8 percent to 10 percent correction that has been widely forecast for most of the summer," Fred Dickson, chief investment strategist at Davison Cos., in said emailed commentary.
Gold miners erased gains as precious metal slid. Gold futures fell $1.40 to $1,418.80 an ounce. Newmont Mining Corp. retreated 2.4 percent and Barrick Gold Corp. lost 1.7 percent.
Shares of Joy Global Inc. fell for a second session, down 4.7 percent a day after the mining-equipment maker reported a drop in quarterly orders and projected reduced revenue.
U.S. Treasury yields gained after a three-session slide, with the 10-year used to figure mortgage rates and other consumer loans rising 6 basis points to 2.78 percent.