Stocks mostly fell on Monday as energy shares sold off on lower oil prices and the onset of earnings season was clouded by concern company outlooks may fall short of expectations.
Worries that increased raw material costs and the effects from Japan's earthquake may affect coming quarters will put companies' forward-looking statements under increased scrutiny.
Companies are going to be trying to dampen expectations for the second quarter, said Subodh Kumar, chief investment strategist at Subodh Kumar & Associates in Toronto. The market focus is more internal as to whether it's gone up too fast.
After the bell, Alcoa Inc
Energy shares fell as U.S. crude futures slid on profit-taking. Occidental Petroleum
Profits for S&P 500 companies are seen rising 11.4 percent from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data, but much of that may be priced into shares. The S&P 500 is up over 5 percent this year.
Optimism over earnings contributed to recent gains, despite turmoil in oil-producing regions and the disasters in Japan. Despite the S&P 500's gains this year, light trading volume has prompted questions about the strength of the rally.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 1.06 points, or 0.01 percent, at 12,381.11. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> fell 3.71 points, or 0.28 percent, at 1,324.46. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> lost 8.91 points, or 0.32 percent, at 2,771.51.
U.S. crude oil futures ended 2.5 percent lower after a recommendation from top brokerage Goldman Sachs to take profits after the recent rally triggered a sell-off.
In corporate news, Tenet Healthcare Corp
Shares of Tenet sank 14.7 percent to $6.44 while Community slumped 36 percent to $25.89.
NYSE shares fell 2.9 percent to $37.59 while Nasdaq OMX fell 1.5 percent to $28.03 and ICE was unchanged at $120.55.
Also in deal news, Endo Pharmaceuticals Holding Inc
Endo rose 0.5 percent to $41.06 while American Medical jumped 32 percent to $29.50. Level 3 rose 18.1 percent to $1.70 and Global Crossing surged 69 percent to $24.97.
Biogen Idec Inc
Composite volume was light on the NYSE, Amex and Nasdaq with 6.73 billion shares changing hands compared to last year's daily average of 8.47 billion.
Declining stocks outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by about 5 to 2, while on the Nasdaq about two shares fell for every one that rose.
(Editing by Leslie Adler)