imageNEW YORK: US stocks on Friday finished higher as investors weighed the implications of escalating sectarian violence in Iraq that has lifted oil prices to nine-month highs.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 41.55 points (0.25 percent) to 16,775.74.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 6.05 (0.31 percent) at 1,936.16, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 13.02 (0.30 percent) to 4,310.65.

Iraq remained at the center of attention as Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged the people to defend the country against jihadist insurgents while President Barack Obama said he was examining options short of sending in US troops.

Insurgents seized Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, earlier this week and have launched attacks approaching Baghdad.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for July rose 38 cents to close at $106.91 a barrel, a fresh nine-month high. However, the increase in US oil prices was much smaller than Thursday's.

Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities, said the market remains in “a bullish uptrend" and that Iraq will not significantly affect that sentiment “until there's some material concerns that present themselves."

But Mace Blicksilver, director of Marblehead Asset Management, characterized the Iraq situation as “very unsettling."

“Iraq is a place we forgot about and suddenly we see this unraveling and it has very dramatic implications," he said. Computer-chip giant Intel, a Dow component, lifted its second-quarter and full-year revenue forecast, citing better-than-expected demand for business PCs. Shares jumped 6.5 percent.

The Intel outlook propelled other equities whose businesses are based around PCs, including Dow component Microsoft (+1.3 percent) and Hewlett-Packard (+5.0 percent).

Travel giant Priceline announced a $2.6 billion acquisition of online restaurant reservation service OpenTable. Priceline fell 2.9 percent, while OpenTable shot up 47.4 percent.

The deal lifted some of OpenTable's peers. Yelp, an online listing and reviews website for restaurants and stores, jumped 13.6 percent. Groupon, which provides online coupons, rose 3.9 percent.

Citigroup dropped 1.4 percent following a report that US prosecutors have demanded $10 billion to settle claims the bank misled investors on mortgage-backed bonds sold before the 2008 financial crisis

Apparel retailer Express jumped 20.4 percent after disclosing that shareholder Sycamore Partners, which currently holds 9.9 percent of shares, is interested in acquiring the company.

Bond prices were mixed. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 2.60 percent from 2.59 percent Thursday, while the 30-year held steady at 3.41 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.