* Bargain-hunting pushes shares modestly higher
* Barclays cuts year-end target for S&P 500
* Volume seen light on Veterans Day with bond market closed
* Dow up 0.3 pct, S&P up 0.3 pct, Nasdaq up 0.4 pct
(Updates to midafternoon, changes byline)
By Leah Schnurr
NEW YORK, Nov 12 U.S. stocks pushed higher on
Monday as bargain-hunters emerged after last week's selloff,
though concerns of a drawn-out battle over the "fiscal cliff"
put a cap on gains.
Barclays cut its year-end target for the S&P 500 to 1,325
from 1,395, citing the government spending cuts and tax
increases that will take effect early next year unless Congress
acts before then.
The S&P 500 dropped 2.4 percent last week, the worst week
for the benchmark index since June. The drop was partly
propelled by concerns about whether there will be a timely
solution to avoid the "fiscal cliff."
Though most consider it unlikely that a deal will not be
reached, analysts fear going over the cliff could push the
economy back into recession. There are also concerns that a
protracted debate could hurt business and investment sentiment.
"It's just the uncertainty. It's going to continue to have
that negative influence on any kind of small business growth or
hiring or planning," said Alan Lancz, president of Alan B. Lancz
& Associates Inc in Toledo, Ohio.
"You not only have it for small businesses and the like, but
on the investor side, too."
Stocks traded little changed for much of the day before
gaining modest strength in the early afternoon. Trading volume
is expected to be light, with the U.S. bond market and
government offices closed for the Veterans Day holiday.
Gilead Sciences helped pull the Nasdaq higher after
the company reported over the weekend a 100 percent cure rate
using a combination of drugs in a small number of patients with
the most common and hardest to treat form of hepatitis C. Gilead
was up 12.1 percent at $72.87.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 37.39 points,
or 0.29 percent, to 12,852.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
gained 4.43 points, or 0.32 percent, to 1,384.28. The
Nasdaq Composite Index gained 10.65 points, or 0.37
percent, to 2,915.52.
The S&P 500 is still up about 10 percent for 2012, though
recent months have eroded those gains. The Nasdaq has fallen for
five straight weeks.
Some major acquisition news gave investors reason for
optimism on Monday. Precision Castparts Corp offered to
buy Titanium Metals Corp for $2.9 billion, while
Leucadia National Corp agreed to buy investment bank
Jefferies Group for $3.6 billion.
Shares of Titanium surged 42.3 percent to $16.46 while
Jefferies climbed 12.3 percent to $16.03. Precision rose 5.6
percent to $180.91. In contrast, Leucadia fell 4.2 percent to
Overseas, a report over the weekend showed China's export
growth climbed to a five-month high, beating expectations and
adding to recent data suggesting the country's seven straight
quarters of slowing economic growth have ended.
Investors also watched the latest developments from the euro
zone debt crisis. Euro zone governments will not agree to
disburse more money to debt-ravaged Greece on Monday, despite
the country's approving a tough 2013 budget, because there is
not yet a consensus on how to make its debts sustainable into
the next decade.
As a result, the region's finance ministers may have to talk
again later this week.
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)