(Reuters) -- Stocks closed slightly lower Monday as lingering questions about Europe's debt crisis and corporate earnings overshadowed growing optimism about economic growth after a five-week rally.
The S&P has risen about 7 percent so far this year, helped by a slew of better-than-expected U.S. economic data, which was capped by Friday's solid jobs report.
The magnitude and swiftness of the gains, however, has kept some investors on the sidelines. The S&P is at levels not seen since July, and the ongoing worries about Europe and corporate results have some wondering if the market has more room to rally.
Through Monday morning, of the 290 companies in the S&P 500 that had reported results so far for the quarter, 60 percent posted profits that topped expectations, tracking below recent quarters at this point of the earnings season.
Companies aren't surprising on the upside like they have in previous quarters, which could mean slow going for stocks for a while, said Tommy Huie, president and chief investment officer at BMO Asset Management in Milwaukee. That said, I can see us near 1,400 on the S&P by summer if we get decent news out of Europe.
Another deadline lapsed in Athens as political leaders failed to respond to bailout terms from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Greece needs the funds by March in order to meet big debt repayments and avoid a messy default.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 17.10 points, or 0.13 percent, at 12,845.13. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 0.57 points, or 0.04 percent, at 1,344.33. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 3.67 points, or 0.13 percent, at 2,901.99.
It's not surprising for the market to catch its breath after the very strong start to the year that we've seen, especially as there are still a lot of concerns about what will happen in Europe, said Bernie Schoenfeld, senior investment strategist at BNY Mellon Wealth Management in New York.
We're treading water in a fairly calm market at this point, but some retracement wouldn't be surprising.
Hasbro Inc rose 2.2 percent to $36.66 after the toymaker reported a fourth-quarter profit just above analysts' lowered expectations.
Humana Inc posted a big rise in fourth-quarter profit, but revenues came in below the Wall Street view, sending shares down 5.4 percent to $85.21. The Morgan Stanley healthcare payor index lost 1.4 percent.
Technical analysts at Instinet in New York said a host of metrics, such as an upturn in the S&P 500's moving averages and a strong move up in January, boded well for equity prices in the medium term.
The persistency of both price appreciation and breadth since the beginning of the year suggests the next pullback will be a precursor to another attack on the 2011 highs in the S&P 500 near 1,370, the firm wrote in a note.
Fidelity National Financial Inc agreed to buy casual dining chain O'Charley's Inc for $9.85 a share, valuing the company at $221 million. The title insurer already owned a 9.5 percent stake. Shares of O'Charley's surged 41.8 percent to $9.81.
Semiconductor stocks lost ground, dragged down by Micron Technology Inc, whose chief executive died on Friday in the crash of a small plane he was piloting. Micron shares fell 2.8 percent to $7.73 while the PHLX semiconductor index dropped 1.4 percent.
About 57 percent of stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange closed in negative territory, while on the Nasdaq, three stocks fell for every two that rose.
Volume was light, with about 5.82 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, below last year's daily average of 7.84 billion.
(Editing by Leslie Adler)