* Brent crude at session lows after hitting 18-month high
* Bank stocks gain on Barclays price target raise
* Indexes up: Dow 0.38 pct, S&P 0.61 pct, Nasdaq 0.60 pct (Adds details, comments, updates prices)
By Yashaswini Swamynathan
Jan 3 (Reuters) - Wall Street was higher on Tuesday as a post-election rally extended into the new year, but stocks pared some of their early gains after oil prices eased from an 18-month high.
Oil prices were up 0.24 percent at $57.06 after touching a high of $58.37 as investors keep a close watch on whether major producers keep their promise of limiting output.
The retreat in stocks meant the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped away from 20,000 - a mark it has never hit before.
The Dow came within a hair’s breadth of the milestone in December as investors bet that President-elect Donald Trump would introduce market friendly policies such as tax cuts and simpler regulation.
The average rose to as much as 19,938.53 earlier in the session on Tuesday, supported by gains in Goldman Sachs and Walt Disney.
“The market is picking up where it left off since the Trump presidency,” said Thomas Wilson, senior investment manager at Brinker Capital.
“What you are seeing is the market moving up in anticipation of fiscal expansion and a potential reflation trade that will replace what has been a monetary policy-driven market for the last several years.”
Technology stocks were the main drivers of the gains on Wall Street on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 technology sector rising 0.9 percent and giving the broader index its biggest boost.
Financials were up 0.9 percent after Barclays raised price targets on several Wall Street banks including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan.
Also feeding Wall Street’s gains was data that showed U.S. factory activity expanded to a two-year high in December. The dollar index rose to a 14-year high.
At 10:59 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones industrial average was up 74.48 points, or 0.38 percent, at 19,837.08, the S&P 500 was up 13.72 points, or 0.61 percent, at 2,252.55 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 32.14 points, or 0.6 percent, at 5,415.25.
Ten of the 11 major S&P 500 indexes were higher, with the defensive real estate and consumer staples sectors bringing up the rear.
Utilities, another defensive sector, was the only one in the red.
Marathon Petroleum rose 6.9 percent to $53.7 after the company said it would explore a spinoff of its retail business, caving to pressure from activist investor Elliott Management.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,005 to 870. On the Nasdaq, 1,689 issues rose and 1,032 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 17 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 97 new highs and 14 new lows. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)