By Riva Gold and Daniel Huang

U.S. stocks edged higher Monday, but major indexes were on track for monthly declines.

The Dow industrials were on pace to fall for a third consecutive month, which would be their longest stretch of declines since a five-month stretch in 2011. The Nasdaq Composite was poised to snap a three-month winning streak.

Investors appeared to be cautious at the start of a busy week with earnings results, central-bank meetings , the monthly U.S. jobs report on Friday, plus the U.S. election next week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 18 points, or 0.1%, to 18179 on Monday. The S&P 500 added 0.2% and the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.2%.

"Volumes are much lighter than usual," said John Brady, managing director at brokerage R.J. O'Brien, continuing a trend of slow trading in recent weeks. As of Friday, daily U.S. stock-trading volumes in October were below the 2016 average, according the WSJ Market Data Group.

Better-than-expected earnings results have pulled in some investors, but "I'm not sure if anything is going to be a bigger deal this week than who runs the country for the next four years," Mr. Brady said.

Around 300 companies in the S&P 500 have reported their quarterly earnings so far, according to FactSet, with more than 100 due this week.

On Monday, shares of General Electric added 0.4% after the company reached a deal to combine its oil-and-gas business with Baker Hughes, whose shares fell 4.6% after rallying last week. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the companies were in talks about a potential transaction.

Shares of Level 3 Communications rose 5% after CenturyLink said it reached a cash-and stock deal to buy the communications company for roughly $25 billion. Shares of CenturyLink fell 12%.

The news followed a series of high-profile deals announced last week, while Japan's three largest shipping companies also said Monday that they would merge their container-shipping operations.

Recent improvements in bank earnings and a flurry of mergers and acquisitions are helping support sentiment around the stock market, said Benjardin Gärtner, head of equities at Union Investment.

"It reflects good financing conditions, and more confidence in the economic and business outlook," Mr. Gärtner said.

Financial shares in the S&P 500 have risen nearly 3% in October, putting the sector on track to be the best performer of the month. Telecom, one of the leadersin the first half of the year, is on pace for the biggest fall of the month.

The Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.5% Monday, with the oil and gas sector leading declines. U.S. crude declined 3% to $47.22 a barrel on doubts about whether the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would reach a consensus on cutting production.

Shares in Asia broadly declined after U.S. stocks ended Friday a touch lower. Sentiment on Wall Street soured slightly after the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was reviewing new evidence in connection with its investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's email server, just over a week before the election.

"Jitters about the election are bleeding into global markets," said Chris Hare, an economist at Investec.

Markets in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Japan slipped around 0.1%, while Korea's Kospi fell 0.6% after a weekend protest against South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

The Bank of Japan concludes its policy meeting on Tuesday, while the Federal Reserve ends its latest meeting Wednesday. No action is expected on interest rates just ahead of the U.S. election, but investors' expectations have solidified for a rate rise in December.

The Bank of England meets Thursday, with officials expected to announce whether they will ease policy further this month after launching a multipronged stimulus in August.

Government bonds firmed after a selloff last week pushed yields to five-month highs. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was at 1.840% compared with 1.847% on Friday. Yields move inversely to prices.

Write to Riva Gold at riva.gold@wsj.com and Daniel Huang at dan.huang@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 31, 2016 13:13 ET (17:13 GMT)

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