U.S. stocks barely budged on Monday as hopes stirred by AIG's sale of a unit and McDonald's upbeat sales were offset by falling healthcare shares after President Barack Obama's criticism.

Investors remained 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 as well.

A bright spot came early on Monday, before the market's opening bell, from American International Group Inc , whose shares rose 4.2 percent to $29.25 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 4.5 percent at $40.65.

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. There were some good positives last week, and that added fuel for the market.

McDonald's Corp advanced 2.5 percent to $65.26 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 the president criticized insurance premium increases and some cases of coverage denial, in remarks prepared for a speech in Philadelphia.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 13.68 points, or 0.13 percent, at 10,552.52. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 1.23 points, or 0.11 percent, at 1,137.47. But the Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 2.85 points, or 0.12 percent, at 2,329.20.

On the Nasdaq, Applied Materials Inc gained 0.7 percent to $12.37 after its board approved a 17 percent quarterly dividend increase and a $2 billion stock-buyback program.

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.

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Jan Paschal)