Markets ended with gains today:
▲ Dow: +0.15 percent
▲ Nasdaq: +0.59 percent
▲ S&P: +0.22 percent
▲ Gold: +0.39 percent to $1,684.56 an ounce
▲ Silver: +0.73 percent to settle at $31.15
▲ Oil: +0.83 percent
Markets were up because:
On the day before the U.S. presidential election, stock indexes managed slight gains in thin trading.
After wavering between small gains and losses, the Dow Jones industrial average ended with a gain of 19.28 points to start the week, closing at 13,112.44 on Monday.
Uncertainty surrounding the election will prevent most investors from making any big moves before it's over, said Randy Frederick, managing director of active trading and derivatives at the brokerage Charles Schwab.
National polls show President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney locked in a tight race. The two candidates are spending the final days of the campaign holding rallies in Ohio and other states considered crucial to winning the White House.
"I honestly think the markets are going to sit here and mark time," Frederick said. "The markets have a tendency to trade sideways before big news events, and nothing is bigger than a presidential election."
Frederick said he believes that no matter who wins, the stock market will likely surge once it's over for the sole reason that investors will know the name of the next president.
But that's assuming there's a winner by Wednesday. If the election comes down to a thin margin in a swing state, the outcome could be delayed for days.
In other Monday trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 3.06 points to 1,417.26, while the Nasdaq composite index climbed 17 points to 2,999.66. Just 2.9 billion shares were traded on the New York Stock Exchange, well below the recent average.
Apple rose $7.82 to $584.62. The company said it sold 3 million iPads in the three days after launching a smaller version, the Mini. Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, said the iPad Mini is "practically sold out."
In the market for U.S. government debt, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.68 percent, down from 1.72 percent late Friday.
There was only one major economic report, a measure of activity among so-called service companies, which employ about 90 percent of the American workforce. The Institute for Supply Management's service-sector index showed growth in October, but at a slower pace than in September, and just short of what economists expected.
In Europe, renewed focus on Greece's economic problems combined with uncertainty over the U.S. election to push markets lower. Germany's benchmark index, the DAX, dropped 0.5 percent, and the CAC-40 in France fell 1.3 percent.
"With the race so close, investors are understandably risk-averse today," said James Hughes, chief market analyst at Alpari, a London brokerage.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.