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NEW YORK, Dec 17 AFP

December 18 2012, 01:59AM

US stocks have opened higher, two weeks before the world's biggest economy could go off the "fiscal cliff".

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 41.51 points, or 0.32 per cent, at 13,176.52 in early trade on Monday.

The broad-market S&P 500 rose 6.61 points, or 0.47 per cent, to 1,420.19.

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite gained 15.10 points, or 0.51 per cent, at 2,986.43.

The action came shortly after the New York Federal Reserve said its Empire State manufacturing survey, measuring conditions in the New York region, fell for a fifth straight month in December, with both new orders and shipments lower.

"Despite the US fiscal cliff remaining unresolved and a disappointing read on regional manufacturing activity, the domestic equity markets are gaining ground," said analysts with Charles Schwab & Co.

Traders continued to fret about a series of tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect in January if Washington fails to reach a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, which economists warn could take the United States into recession.

Apple was up 0.1 per cent. The tech giant announced it had sold more than two million of the new iPhone 5 in China during the smartphone's first weekend in stores there.

On Friday, the Dow lost 0.27 per cent, the S&P 500 fell 0.41 per cent, while the Nasdaq shed 0.70 per cent.