NEW YORK: Wall Street's main indexes edged higher on Tuesday, helped by a rebound in oil stocks, while investors awaited a Senate vote on a much-anticipated $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
Six of the 11 major S&P sectors rose in early trading. The energy sector tracked a recovery in oil prices from a three-week low and was the top gainer, followed by materials shares.
After the vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill at 11 a.m. ET (1500 GMT), the Senate will immediately begin to debate $3.5 trillion in additional investments to jump-start road and bridge-building projects over the next five years and new social programs over the next decade.
With new coronavirus cases rising steadily in the United States, progress on the infrastructure package is expected to help gauge fiscal support for the next leg of recovery in the world's largest economy.
The rapid spread of the Delta variant has pushed cases and hospitalizations to a six-month high, with COVID-19 cases averaging 100,000 for three days in a row - up 35% over the past week.
"We are sort of in a holding pattern. The Delta variant is causing investors to sit on their hands and not really do anything with their portfolios at this point," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA.
Investor focus is also on inflation numbers due later this week for hints about the path of Federal Reserve policy, after two Fed officials said on Monday inflation was already at a level that could satisfy one leg of a key test for the beginning of rate hikes.
The S&P 500 and the Dow dipped from record highs on Monday, weighed down by a fall in oil stocks and concerns of a sooner-than-expected Fed tapering after a strong jobs report last week.
"We've been seeing the participation of the market narrow, and that usually is an indication of some sort of digestion that is likely to occur. We need to reset the dials before moving significantly higher," Stovall said.
At 9:58 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 70.53 points, or 0.20%, at 35,172.38, the S&P 500 was up 8.41 points, or 0.19%, at 4,440.76, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 23.54 points, or 0.16%, at 14,883.72.
AMC Entertainment jumped 5.7% after beating second-quarter revenue estimates as moviegoers returned to its theaters after a year of closures and restrictions.
Kansas City Southern gained 7.8% after Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd raised its offer for the US railroad operator by about $2 billion to $27.29 billion.
SVB Financial Group slipped 2.7% on a discounted $1.25 billion equity offering.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.12-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.10-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 19 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 35 new highs and 36 new lows.