By Sinead Carew
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil futures rose on Monday due to uncertainty on the situation in Syria, one of several risk concerns that helped cap stock gains and send U.S. Treasury yields down along with the U.S. dollar.
Jitters about the upcoming French presidential election, North Korea and U.S.-Syria tensions underpinned safe-haven demand for safer U.S. government debt.
Oil prices rose more than 1 percent, helping the S&P 500 end the session with tiny gains boosted by energy stocks. Crude was supported by a shutdown at Libya's largest oilfield over the weekend and tensions following last week's U.S. missile strike on a Syrian air base in retaliation for a poison gas attack on civilians.
Brent crude futures (LCOc1), the international benchmark for oil prices, settled up 1.3 percent at $55.98 per barrel and U.S. crude futures (CLc1) settled up 1.6 percent at $53.08.
The S&P's energy sector (.SPNY) was the benchmark's biggest driver with a 0.8 percent gain. [.N]
"You've had a lot of geopolitical news that could have driven this market a lot lower, and I think it's a huge relief that the market has held up so well," said Jake Dollarhide, chief executive officer of Longbow Asset Management in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which has about $50 million in assets under management.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) rose 1.92 points, or 0.01 percent, to 20,658.02, the S&P 500 (.SPX) gained 1.62 points, or 0.07 percent, to 2,357.16 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) added 3.11 points, or 0.05 percent, to 5,880.93.
Trading was slow in U.S. equities at the start of a shortened holiday week in what turned out to be the lightest trading day so far this year for U.S. exchanges, according to Reuters data.
Traders attributed a stock dip around noon EDT (1600 GMT) to unverified rumours stemming from weekend reports related to North Korea.
A U.S. official told Reuters on Saturday that a U.S. Navy strike group will be moving towards the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula as a show of force as concerns grow about North Korea's advancing weapons programme.
Some equity investors were also holding as they geared up for the U.S. earnings season, which kicks off this week with first-quarter reports from some of the biggest banks.
Investors were also waiting for clues on U.S. central bank balance-sheet trimming from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who was scheduled to participate in a discussion on public policy at the University of Michigan.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury
"You are getting some safe-haven bids on geopolitical concerns," said Guy LeBas, chief fixed income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.
The dollar index (.DXY), which tracks the greenback against six major currencies, was down 0.16 percent as traders consolidated Friday's gains on low volume. The dollar had risen 0.5 percent Friday.
The MSCI all world stock index <.MIWD00000PUS> was up 0.02 percent. European stocks (.STOXX) ended the day flat as investors eyed France's upcoming presidential election.
(Additional reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch and Richard Leong in New York, Vikram Subhedar and Abhinav Ramnarayann in London; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and James Dalgleish)