By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks advanced at the open on Tuesday, putting the S&P 500 on pace for a sixth day of gains, following further upbeat economic data from China and as an alternative solution emerged to a possible Western military strike against Syria.
Fears of action against Syria eased after U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday he saw a possible breakthrough in the crisis with Syria after Russia proposed that its ally Damascus hands over its chemical weapons for destruction, which could avert planned U.S. military strikes.
Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halki said his country supported a Russian proposal for Damascus to give up chemical weapons to avoid a possible U.S. military strike.
"Certainly there was the potential for escalation, which was the market's primary concern, and that seemed to be the issue out there," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.
Economic data in China showed stronger-than-expected industrial output and retail sales showed their fastest growth this year, reinforcing signs that the world's second-largest economy was stabilizing after slowing for more than two years.
"Another good China-data day and that has certainly been helping," Ghriskey said.
However, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would press ahead with his plan to ask Congress to approve the use of military force in Syria, despite Syria's recent acceptance of the Russian proposal.
Oil prices pulled back, with U.S. crude off 2.3 percent. Crude prices rose 2.7 percent last week on worries a strike against Syria could spark a wider conflict and heightened supply concerns. The S&P energy index was off 0.6 percent, the only one of the 10 major S&P sectors in the red.
After suffering its worst monthly performance since May 2012 in August, the S&P 500 has rallied for a 2.9 percent gain to start the month, its longest winning streak since early July.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 75.87 points or 0.5 percent, to 15,138.99, the S&P 500 gained 7.86 points or 0.47 percent, to 1,679.57 and the Nasdaq Composite added 16.016 points or 0.43 percent, to 3,722.199.
S&P Dow Jones Indices said Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) will replace Bank of American Corp (BAC.N), Visa Inc (V.N) will replace Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N) and Nike Inc (NKE.N) will replace Alcoa Inc (AA.N) in the Dow Jones Industrial Average after the close of trading September 20.
Goldman shares rose 3 percent to $164.35, Visa gained 2.5 percent to $183 and Nike advanced 2 percent to $66.71, while Alcoa lost 0.1 percent to $8.07, Bank of America added 0.4 percent to $14.54 and Hewlett-Packard shed 1.5 percent to
McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) gained 0.7 percent to $97.08 after the fast-food restaurant chain reported a better-than-expected 1.9 percent increase in global sales at established restaurants in August.
Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is expected to introduce a cheaper version of the iPhone on Tuesday, bringing one of the industry's costliest smartphones within reach of the masses in poorer emerging markets. Apple shares were down 0.6 percent at $503.11.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)
- President Barack Obama