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All major indexes briefly positive; Dow tires to hold gains

U.S. stocks traded narrowly higher Monday, as investors prepare for a deluge of earnings while digesting Chinese economic data.

"The market today is going to be focused on earnings," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital.

Over a fifth of S&P 500 companies are scheduled release quarterly results this week. Banking giant Morgan Stanley posted earnings per share 20 cents below estimates before the bell, with revenue also disappointing.

Hasbro and Halliburton also reported quarterly results ahead of Monday's open that beat analysts' expectations.

Earnings reports thus far "have been more of the same from last quarter," said Nick Raich, CEO of The Earnings Scout. "It's all about the earnings per share."

Raich also said that, of the 58 companies that had reported as of Friday's close, 71 percent had beaten Wall Street's estimates for EPS, but only 47 percent had beaten on revenue. "The theme for 2015 has been strong earnings and weak revenues," he said.

U.S. equities opened lower, with all major indexes falling about 0.3 percent. The Nasdaq Composite rose as the iShares Biotechnology ETF (IBB) gained about 2 percent. S&P and the Dow turned sightly positive in late-morning trading.

"This week is going to tell us which way the market is going (moving forward)," said Maris Ogg, president at Tower Bridge Advisors.

Overnight, China reported a third-quarter gross domestic growth figure of 6.9 percent, slightly above the expected 6.8 percent, but also its lowest in six years. China also reported industrial production rose 5. percent, below the expected 6 percent increase.

"We're less concerned about the global growth story than we were in August," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. "It's not to say China's out of the woods, but it's stabilizing."

China's growth data took its toll on the commodities space, which saw U.S. crude futures fall about 2 percent, while Brent futures dropped over 3 percent. The energy sector in the S&P fell more than 1.5 percent.

Gold futures also fell $12.40 to $1,170.80 per ounce, below its 200-day moving average of $1,175.80.