Stocks were little changed on Monday as investors were hesitant to buy riskier assets after a decision was delayed on emergency loans to Greece and Moody's said it may downgrade Italy's credit rating.
The market seesawed between modest gains and losses. Wall Street started lower, but erased losses as the S&P dipped toward 1,259, its 200-day moving average, encouraging buyers. A drop below that level would be the first since September 2010.
From a technical point of view, the 200-day moving average is where the market gains support, said Jason Ware, senior equity analyst at Albion Financial Group in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 20.02 points, or 0.17 percent, at 12,024.38. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 0.27 points, or 0.02 percent, at 1,271.23. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 0.85 points, or 0.03 percent, at 2,615.63.
Euro zone finance ministers delayed a decision on extending 12 billion euros ($17 billion) in emergency loans to Greece, saying Athens would first have to introduce austerity measures.
The ministers expect the money, the next tranche in a 110 billion euro bailout by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, to be paid by mid-July. Greece needs the loans by then to avoid a debt default.
It blows the confidence out of the market, especially when the expectation was that there will be some kind of support or help to solve the situation.
Adding to concerns, Moody's threatened to cut Italy's credit ratings in the next 90 days on worries that the Greece crisis may drive interest rates higher and derail Italy's fragile economic recovery.
In company news, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a tamper-resistant pain drug from Pfizer Inc
(Reporting by Angela Moon; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)