Stocks were little changed on Monday after comments by the Treasury Secretary that a mortgage aid plan was in the works helped offset declines after a report showing slower growth in manufacturing last month.
Treasury chief Henry Paulson said his department was close to working out a plan with the mortgage industry to move many troubled borrowers into more sustainable home loans.
Declines in shares of large manufacturers, such as General Electric and General Motors, ended a four-day rally in blue chips.
Industrials were one of the worst performing sectors on the Standard & Poor's 500 after the Institute for Supply Management said its index showed factory activity in November fell to its lowest since January.
The trend of this data is down and that doesn't speak well for economic growth, said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at Morgan Asset Management in Birmingham, Alabama. But we dodged a bullet having that come in above 50.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 0.73 point, or 0.01 percent, at 13,372.45. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX was down 3.91 points, or 0.26 percent, at 1,477.23. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was down 1.94 points, or 0.07 percent, at 2,659.02.
Bear Stearns analysts added a bearish note by cutting estimates for earnings per share of companies in the S&P 500 in 2007 and 2008, but they lifted estimates for the health-care sector, which is seen as a defensive stock investment.
Utilities were one of the best performing sectors after Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway said it is paying $2.1 billion to buy junk bonds of Texas power company TXU, CNBC reported. Buffett told the business news channel that the purchase is a bet on the utility business.
Other utilities included Exelon, up 1.1 percent at $81.97 and FPL, 1.9 percent higher to $71.06 on the NYSE.
Shares of Research in Motion fell after Morgan Keegan cut its rating on the Blackberry maker. RIM shares fell 6.8 percent to $105.91 on the Nasdaq.
Activision shares surged after French entertainment conglomerate Vivendi said over the weekend it would combine its interactive gaming business with the video game publisher. Activision jumped 20.1 percent to $26.61.
Shares of E*Trade Financial Corp fell about 11 percent to $4.08 after Banc of America Securities downgraded the online bank and brokerage despite a $2.55 billion infusion from hedge fund Citadel Investment Group.
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)