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US stocks edge higher in cautious trade

US stocks finished higher on Monday after struggling to get out of the losing column, shrugging off poor industrial data from China and growing violence in Ukraine.

NEW YORK: US stocks finished higher Monday after struggling to get out of the losing column, shrugging off poor industrial data from China and growing violence in Ukraine.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 17.66 points (0.11 per cent) to 16,530.55.

The broad-based S&P 500 added 3.52 points (0.19 per cent) at 1,884.66, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 14.16 points (0.34 per cent) to 4,138.06.

China's growth picture worsened after HSBC reported a fourth straight monthly contraction in its activity index for the manufacturing sector, taking the index to its lowest level in eight months.

Meanwhile in Ukraine fighting intensified between government forces and pro-Moscow secessionists, with Ukraine's military suffering heavy casualties and Russia warning the violence was putting peace in Europe in peril.

Boeing (+1.6 per cent) and Apple (+1.4 per cent) led gainers among the largest companies, while Pfizer fell 2.6 per cent on some disappointing signals in quarterly results and a hint it might take its push to buy Britain's AstraZeneca to shareholders, turning the bid hostile.

Venerable auction house Sotheby's gained 3.3 per cent after bowing to powerful critic Daniel Loeb, head of the hedge fund Third Point, giving him three seats on the board and permitting him to raise his stake in the company to 15 per cent without having to make a bid for the whole.

Loeb has been pressuring the company's board since late last year over allegedly poor management and extravagant spending, and said he would work on the board "to unlock shareholder value by pursuing a strategy of sound capital allocation and growth."

Shares of retail giant Target lost 3.5 per cent after the company announced that chief executive Gregg Steinhafel was stepping down in the wake of the massive theft of customer data by hackers.

Steinhafel, chief executive since 2008, will be replaced temporarily by chief financial officer John Mulligan while the company searches for a permanent chief executive and chairman.

General Motors dropped 0.6 per cent after issuing a recall of some sport utility vehicles over the weekend for a potentially dangerous fuel leak.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury edged up to 2.61 per cent from 2.59 per cent Friday, while the 30-year rose to 3.41 per cent from 3.37 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

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