U.S. stocks were nearly flat on Monday as upbeat sentiment from AIG's sale of a unit and McDonald's sales data were offset by falling healthcare shares after President Barack Obama's criticism of health insurers.

Investors were still feeling encouraged by Friday's jobs data that helped the Nasdaq close at an 18-month high. All three U.S. stock indexes finished the week with strong gains.

I think it bodes well for the rest of the week that we're able to hang in after all these gains, said Stephen Massocca, managing director of Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco.

A bright spot came early on Monday from American International Group Inc, whose shares rose 3.5 percent to $29.07 after the company agreed to sell its Alico foreign life insurance unit to MetLife Inc for about $15.5 billion. MetLife's stock shot up 4 percent to $40.49.

McDonald's Corp advanced 2.6 percent to $65.30 after the world's biggest hamburger chain, a Dow component, reported that February same-store sales increased 4.8 percent.

But an index of health insurers' shares slipped 0.5 percent after Obama criticized insurance premium increases and some cases of coverage denial in a speech in Philadelphia.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 13.61 points, or 0.13 percent, at 10,552.59. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 0.19 points, or 0.02 percent, at 1,138.51. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 4.75 points, or 0.20 percent, at 2,331.10.

You had AIG selling off some of their pieces ... I think that's a step in the right direction, said Stephen Carl, principal and head of U.S. equity trading at The Williams Capital Group LP, in New York.

Last week, Britain's Prudential
said it will buy AIG's Asian life insurance arm in the insurance sector's biggest deal ever.

On the Nasdaq, Applied Materials Inc gained 0.8 percent to $12.40 after its board approved a 17 percent quarterly dividend increase and a $2 billion stock-buyback program.

Also, Cisco Systems rose 2.2 percent to $25.76 after JP Morgan assumed coverage of the stock with an overweight rating.

On Friday, the government said 36,000 U.S. jobs were lost in February, compared with forecasts for a drop of 50,000, resulting in a stock market rally that pushed both the Dow and the S&P 500 to six-week closing highs.

This week's economic data include the government's report on monthly retail sales, which is due on Friday.

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)