NEW YORK (AP) _ Stocks rose in early trading Monday, strengthened by plummeting energy prices.

Equity investors were heartened as oil prices dipped below $60 a barrel, hitting a six-month low. The price of natural gas also sagged, falling near its three-year low.

Commodities prices have fallen on signs of a slowing U.S. economy. Oil has also been pushed lower this month as the tension between the United States and Iran has eased. On Monday, BP PLC said it had permission to restart the eastern half of Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oil field, which should expand oil inventories.

Stocks fell Thursday and Friday on growing pessimism about the economy. Existing home sales for August, expected to be released later in the session, are forecast to fall. The inventory of unsold homes is expected to grow from July's 7.3-month supply, with prices dropping.

In the first hour of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 36.50, or 0.32 percent, to 11,544.60.

Broader stock indicators were higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.93, or 0.22 percent, to 1,317.71, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 9.53, or 0.43 percent, to 2,228.46.