* Energy shares continue decline as oil falls 3 percent
* Gilead falls as Express Scripts picks AbbVie treatment
* Dow boosted by gains at Intel, IBM
* Indexes up: Dow 0.6 pct, S&P 0.1 pct, Nasdaq 0.2 pct (Updates to afternoon trading)
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Dec 22 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged higher on Monday, with investors holding off on making big bets after the S&P 500’s best week in nearly two months, while the Dow was lifted by gains in large-cap tech shares.
Major indexes remained near record levels, but trading was expected to be quiet this week given the upcoming Christmas holiday. The stock market will be closed on Thursday and close early on Wednesday.
Energy shares continued their recent downward trend as crude oil sank 3 percent on the day after Saudi Arabia’s powerful oil minister said OPEC would not cut production at any price. The S&P energy index fell 1.6 percent as the day’s weakest sector; Chevron Corp lost 1.3 percent to $111.44 while Halliburton Co was off 1.9 percent at $39.70.
Crude oil is on track for its fifth-straight weekly decline and has fallen in 12 of the past 13 weeks.
“A decline like this means oil hasn’t stabilized or found a bottom,” said Rex Macey, chief allocation officer at Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors in Atlanta, Georgia. “While I‘m comfortable with the level of the broader market, I don’t think there are obvious bargains. Some may say oil stocks are bargains now, but it’s too soon to say.”
Gilead slumped more than 12 percent to $94.80 as the biggest drag on both the S&P and Nasdaq 100 indexes. Express Scripts, the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit manager, said it would no longer cover Gilead’s treatments after it lined up a cheaper price from AbbVie Inc for its newly approved hepatitis C treatment.
The benchmark S&P index rose 3.4 percent last week, boosted by a 5 percent jump over three sessions, after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would take a “patient” approach toward raising interest rates and oil prices appeared to stabilize.
At 12:54 p.m. the Dow Jones industrial average rose 98.45 points, or 0.55 percent, to 17,903.25, the S&P 500 gained 1.64 points, or 0.08 percent, to 2,072.29 and the Nasdaq Composite added 9.01 points, or 0.19 percent, to 4,774.39.
Tech shares lifted the Dow, with Intel Corp up 2.1 percent to $37.14 and IBM up 2 percent to $161.66. Cisco Systems rose 1.4 percent to $28.17.
Achillion Pharmaceuticals Inc said it would test a combination of two of its experimental hepatitis C drugs which showed promise in separate studies. Shares surged 15 percent to $16.39.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,526 to 1,498, for a 1.02-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,473 issues rose and 1,212 fell for a 1.22-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 60 new 52-week highs and 5 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 120 new highs and 27 new lows.
Editing by Meredith Mazzilli