Stocks ended near session lows Monday after hovering around the flatline for most of the day, amid a lack of major economic news as investors were cautious ahead of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech later this week.
“We don’t have any real macro data today so you’re not going to have any catalyst that’s going to show conviction on either side of the tape,” said Todd Schoenberger, managing principal at The BlackBay Group.
Trading volume was the lowest this year with the consolidated tape of the NYSE at 2.35 billion shares, while only 504 million shares changed hands on the floor.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 33.30 points, or 0.25 percent, to end at 13,124.67, dragged by Alcoa and H-P, after trading in a narrow 60-point range.
The S&P 500 erased 0.69 points, or 0.05 percent, to finish at 1,410.44. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq eked out a gain of 3.40 points, or 0.11 percent, to close at 3,073.19.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, ended above 16.
Despite the lackluster trading session, all three major indexes are poised to log their first August gains since 2009.
Among the key S&P sectors, utilities and techs gained, while materials slipped.
Last week, stocks snapped their six-week winning streak as investors took a breather after the S&P 500 touched new four-year highs amid uncertainties in the euro zone and questions over whether the Fed will implement another round of quantitative easing. (Read More: Why Markets Should Cheer QE3 Is Not Coming Soon)
“It’s not a big surprise we’re having selling pressure today, but this is a good entry point to buy because next Tuesday is the first trading day of the month and week. So statistically, you’ll see the markets trend higher," noted Schoenberger.
Investors will be looking ahead for hints of further easing when Bernanke speaks at the Fed's annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday.
Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Evans said the central bank should "take action now," buying bonds for as long as it takes to produce a steady decline in the employment rate.