Stocks ended mixed in a quiet session with techs offering one of the few bright spots ahead a week filled with earnings and economic news, including the Federal Reserve's latest views on monetary policy.
Among Dow components, DuPont , Hewlett-Packard and Kraft fell, while Intel and Pfizer rose.
The S&P 500 fell 2.13 points, or 0.16 percent, to close at 1,335.25, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 5.72 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 2,825.88. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market,rose to nearly 16.
Among the key S&P 500 sectors materials and energy fell, while technology and health gained.
Market participants this week are focused on earnings reports from several Dow components as well as key players in the consumer products, industrials, and energy sectors.
So far, earnings have been outstanding, according to Doug Cote, chief market strategist at ING Investment Management.
"This is the 7th consecutive quarter where we have far surpassed expectations," Cote said. "We think it’ll continue for several more quarters at least," he added.
Some of the best results are coming from the tech companies, which have reported a 33 percent growth in earnings, and a 27 percent increase in sales, Cote said.
And the fact that 55 percent of tech sales are from foreign countries will be a continuing catalyst to growth, he said.
"We are in a synchronized global economic expansion, and it's favoring U.S. corporations," Cote said.
Netflix is scheduled to report after the bell, but the week really begins in earnest on Tuesday with results from Coca-Cola,Ford,3M and Amazon.com, in addition to several others.
The other major focus is the Federal Reserve's policy meeting Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by an unprecedented news conference with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Investors expect to learn more about the Fed's plans regarding the end of its $600 billion bond buying program known as quantitative easing.
"The thing that matters this week is what the Fed is going to do," says Brian Battle, vice president of trading at Performance Trust Capital Partners.
If the Fed ends quantitative easing, "we'll find out if the economy can stand on its own two feet," Battle said. The problem is market participants have very different views of how the markets and economy will respond once the Fed's easing program has ended, he added, as some expect interest rates will spike, while others expect rates will fall.
That's why nobody wants to commit to the market one way or another at this point, Battle said.
The fact the market is rather lackluster today is not much of a surprise. According to Schaeffer's Investment Research, the day after Easter has been positive for the market only 39 percent of the time, and "averages a significantly negative return," Rocky White, senior quantitative analyst at Schaeffer's said in a weekly note to clients.
Still, the week and month after Easter tend to be bullish, White wrote. "According to this historical pattern, if you want to buy this market after the Easter holiday, then you'll want to wait until Tuesday to get in," he said.
Gold continued to trade at record highs, settling up 0.36 percent at $1,508.60 while silver hit a historic high of $49.79 an ounce before parking gains to settle at $47.15. The dollar continued to weaken against a basket of currencies, although it rose briefly early in the session.
Oil prices fell along with the dollar in choppy trading. London Brent crude fell slightly to below $124 a barrel, while U.S. light crude fell only 0.01 percent to close at $112.28.
In merger and acquisition news, Barrick Gold announced an agreement to buy Equinox Mineralsfor about $7.3 billion in cash. Equinox jumped more than 10 percent.
Among other gold miners, Newmont Mining slipped after CIBC cut its price target on the firm to $73 from $80. However, RBC raised its price target to $67 from $62.
NYSE Euronext said it has found savings of more than a third more than initially thought in the proposed $9.8 billion merger with Deutsche Boerse.
And on Friday, Tenet Healthcarerejected a sweetened offer from from Community Health Systems, saying the price was too low to be in the best interest of shareholders.
A Coast Guard report said safety lapses by Transoceancontributed to the explosion of the Deep Water Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico a year ago, causing the deaths of 11 workers and the worst oil spill in the history.