US STOCKS-Wall St gains on McDonald's and tech stocks

Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:22pm EST

* McDonald's shares rise on November sales

* Investors look for progress in Washington talks

* Italian prime minister's resignation adds to uncertainty

* Dow up 0.3 pct, S&P up 0.2 pct, Nasdaq up 0.4 pct

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Dec 10 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Monday, aided by gains in McDonald's and technology stocks, but moves remained muted as investors looked for any signs of movement on the "fiscal cliff" front.

Developments in Europe also served to keep sentiment in check a s Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said he would resign once the 2013 budget is approved. The move added to uncertainty about progress being made to tackle the euro zone's debt problem and drove Italy's borrowing costs higher.

U.S. President Barack Obama met with Republican House Speaker John Boehner on Sunday to negotiate a deal for avoiding the "fiscal cliff" set to go into effect in the new year.

The two sides declined to provide details about the unannounced meeting. Obama is expected to make remarks at 2 p.m. (1900 GMT) from Michigan where he is touring an auto plant.

The fiscal cliff talks have kept markets on edge in the last month as investors worry that the scheduled tax hikes and budget cuts could send the U.S. economy into recession if politicians do not reach a deal.

But the heightened rhetoric and lack of substantial progress has also handcuffed the equities market. The benchmark S&P 500 index has yet to see a move greater than 0.5 percent in either direction for December, and hasn't moved more than 1 percent either way since Nov. 23.

"What we have been seeing is any headline that emanates from anywhere in the world will drive the market pretty quickly one way or the other," said Keith Bliss, senior vice-president at Cuttone & Co, in New York.

"People are out of the market if they have already got their gains (for the year) and the other thing is anybody that is in the market is just kind of sitting around waiting."

The Dow got its biggest lift from McDonald's Corp, up 1.2 percent at $89.55. The fast-food chain's stronger-than-expected November sales marked a rebound after a decline in October.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 34.89 points, or 0.27 percent, to 13,190.02. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 2.78 points, or 0.20 percent, to 1,420.85. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 12.79 points, or 0.43 percent, to 2,990.83.

Technology stocks were the S&P 500's best-performing sector, helped by a 3.6 percent climb in Hewlett-Packard Co to $14.30 on rumors that activist investor Carl Icahn is building a stake in the PC maker. The stock is down 44.5 percent for the year and ranks as the Dow's worst performer.

Cisco Systems also buoyed tech stocks. Cisco's shares rose 2 percent to $19.71 after the company, known for its Internet routers and switches, laid out its midterm growth strategy on Friday. Monday's rally put the stock on track for its fifth advance in the past six sessions. [I D :nL1E8N76OF]

Ingersoll-Rand Plc edged up 0.1 percent to $48.76 after the company said it will spin off its security division and announced a $2 billion share buyback.