Hope that US politicians would find common ground to steer clear of the "fiscal cliff" boosted stocks on Friday, though the gains were not enough to offset the week's losses.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 45.93 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 12,588.31. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 6.55 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 1359.88. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 16.19 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 2853.13.
The late rise on Wall Street lifted SPI futures 12 points to 4360, pointing to small gains at the start of local sharemarket trade on Monday. The dollar inched up to $US1.0340 in overseas trade.
- European stocks slump on fiscal cliff fears
- Oil rises on Middle East tensions, Gulf fire
- Gold posts weekly loss on slowdown fears
For the week, the S&P was down 1.5 per cent, its second week in a row of losses. The Dow lost 1.8 per cent, down for the fourth straight week, while the Nasdaq was lower for the sixth week, also losing 1.8 per cent.
Stocks recovered from early declines after leaders of the Senate and House emerged from a meeting at the White House and indicated they would be flexible in efforts to settle fiscal policy differences.
Democrats said they recognized the need to curb spending and Republicans said they had agreed to put "revenue on the table" following a meeting with President Barack Obama.
"These are very small steps in the right direction," said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones in St Louis. "The more evidence there is that Congress will make a decision sooner, the more likely we are to see stocks rebound."
About $US600 billion of automatic budget cuts and tax increases will start to take effect in the new year unless Washington reaches a deal. With memories of 2011's debt ceiling impasse fresh in investors' minds, many are worried this year's discussions could be drawn out or yield no agreement.
If all the changes go into effect, economists say it could tip the economy into recession. Investors have pulled out of stocks over the past two weeks, taking nearly 4 per cent off the S&P 500.
Shares of Penn National Gaming surged 28.2 per cent to $US48.23 on its busiest day of trading in more than four years, after the owner of gaming and pari-mutuel properties said late Thursday it will split its business into a gaming-focused real estate investment trust and a gaming operator.
More than 10 million shares changed hands, compared with average daily volume of 629,000 shares over the past 50 days.
Dell helped limit the Nasdaq's gains after lower PC sales hurt the company's profit. Dell slumped 7.3 per cent to $US8.86.
More violence in the Middle East also kept investors wary after Palestinian militants nearly hit Jerusalem with a rocket for the first time in decades and fired at Tel Aviv for a second day.
Sears late Thursday reported a quarterly loss that was narrower than expected, but same-store sales fell on weak demand for electronics, sending shares down 18.8 per cent to $US47.49.
Volume is expected to be light next week with some investors away for the Thanksgiving holiday, and the market closed on Thursday and open for only a half-day on Friday.
The decreased liquidity could spell more intra-day volatility for the market, though fewer market participants could also mute action.