U.S. stocks paused on Monday after a week of gains as nervous investors braced for the start of earnings reporting, worried if profits and outlooks will be strong enough to extend the market's advance.
Aluminum producer Alcoa Inc
The Dow and S&P 500 were little changed near 15-month highs while the Nasdaq was dragged lower by big-cap technology stocks.
Investors are skeptical as to how robust the earnings dynamic is going to be, given the state of the economy and continued high unemployment, said Joseph Battipaglia, market strategist at Stifel Nicolaus in Yardley, Pennsylvania.
Revenue growth may not be as strong as you'd expect at this point in the economic cycle, and the hesitancy in the market speaks to that.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 9.83 points, or 0.09 percent, to 10,627.87. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> dropped 0.76 point, or 0.07 percent, to 1,144.22. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> dropped 9.94 points, or 0.43 percent, to 2,307.31.
The market initially rose as stronger trade figures from China added to optimism about the global recovery, but the market struggled to keep pace with a rally that has driven the S&P 500 higher for 12 of the last 14 sessions.
Weighing on the Nasdaq was Apple Inc
Another lagging big-cap tech company was International Business Machines Corp
Consumer staples were also pressured after BMO Capital Markets downgraded the personal care and household products sector. The firm cut Dow component Procter & Gamble
The biggest percentage loser on the Dow was Walt Disney Co
Limiting losses in the Dow was Chevron
Data from China showed the country ended 2009 with record monthly imports of crude oil and soybeans and a strong appetite for iron ore and copper, while its exports rose 17.7 percent year-over-year, dwarfing a forecast for a 4 percent rise.