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A 1.7 percent rise in Johnson & Johnson and a 5 percent jump in Boston Scientific helped the S&P health sector gain 0.7 percent.
A handful of retailers including Target, Kohl's Corp and Lululemon Athletica have already reported solid rise in same-store sales for the holiday period and raised their profit forecasts for the fourth quarter.
At 9:41 a.m. ET (1441 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 66.68 points, or 0.26 percent, at 25,349.68 and the S&P 500 was up 5 points, or 0.18 percent, at 2,752.71.
The Nasdaq Composite was up 4.08 points, or 0.06 percent, at 7,161.47.
"We are looking at a quiet day, with no major news. But investors are starting to prepare for the next round of earnings that could keep the market on fire," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at New Vines Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.
"People are going to look for what is going to create opportunity for more money to flow into equity."
Investors are waiting for the start of the quarterly earnings season for more readings on the impact of recent tax cuts and profit forecasts.
Earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to rise 11.8 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with an 8 percent increase a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 0.9 percent gain in financial stocks.
JPMorgan and Bank of America rose more than 0.8 percent and Goldman Sachs 1 percent.
U. S. 10-year Treasury yields rose to their highest since March.
Advanced Micro Devices slipped 4.15 percent after Microsoft suspended patches to guard against security threats for computers running AMD chipsets after complaints that the software updates froze their machines.
GoPro fell 6.7 percent, extending losses from Monday after the action camera-maker flagged a weak holiday quarter that triggered sale talks. The company said it was not actively trying to sell itself but would be willing to partner with a larger sector player.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,381 to 1,141. On the Nasdaq, 1,363 issues rose and 1,092 fell