Stocks were largely flat Monday as materials and banks dragged and investors were a little jittery ahead of earnings season, which kicks off after the bell today with Alcoa. Techs were the day's best performers.
“There’s low volume and no significant demand,” said Doug Roberts, chief investment strategist at ChannelCapitalResearch.com. “This is aimless drifting.”
Although Roberts expects a “reasonably decent” earnings season, he sees the holding pattern in the markets to continue until the fall and into mid-term elections.
Microsoft was at the front of the Dow pack following a report in the Wall Street Journal that the software giant may be teaming up with Fujitsu on cloud computing. Brokerage Janney Capital raised its ratings on the tech giant to "buy" from "neutral."
Walmart also rose as investors played it safe with some bets in consumer staples.
Materials, industrials and consumer discretionary were the weakest sectors, with United Technologies , DuPont and Alcoa at the back of the Dow pack.
The S&P Materials index slipped after Chinese data over the weekend showed the country's demand for copper dropped, sending Freeport McMoRan down more than 4 percent.
Meanwhile, several analyst moves also helped the tech sector: UBS raised its rating on Sandisk to a "buy" and Avondale started Cisco with a "market outperform" rating.
Earnings season gets underway in earnest Monday with Dow component Alcoa reporting after the closing bell and Chevron reporting interim results.
Some market pros say stocks could get a boost this earnings season.
"One thing that's kept us much more positive is the fact that corporate cash flows are huge," Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management. "Cash flow has been extremely strong. It certainly bolsters the case when you look at cash flow yields. Companies are very mindful of their cash flows and have themselves set up very nicely."
Paul Miller of FBR Capital Markets said big banks will likely report strong earnings.