U.S. stocks fell on Monday after posting two straight weeks of gains that drove indexes to new multi-year, although a recent pattern of buying on market declines was likely to continue.

The S&P 500 has gained nearly 13 percent since the start of a rally in December and had a firm finish on Friday after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation fueled buying interest after weeks of protests.

Traders said they still see residual strength in the market, with investors willing to buy on any decrease in prices.

The buy the dip mentality is certainly the trend that we've seen over the last couple of weeks, said Ryan Larson, head of equity trading at RBC Global Asset Management in Chicago. We will probably look for that to carry through.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dropped 21.95 points, or 0.18 percent, to 12,251.31. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> fell 0.81 points, or 0.06 percent, to 1,328.34. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> gained 0.07 points, or 0.00 percent, to 2,809.51.

China's trade surplus fell to its lowest level in nine months in January as imports surged, helping to lift Asian markets and sending European commodity stocks higher.

The data also boosted North American natural resource shares. Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc rose 3 percent to $55.10. Citigroup raised its price target on the stock to $60 from $59.

General Electric Co plans to buy the well support division of British energy services firm John Wood Group Plc for about $2.8 billion in the latest move to boost its presence in oil services. GE rose 1 percent to $21.56.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)