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.
"With the 'Triple Put' of the ECB, the Fed, the Peoples Bank of China—and you might even include the Brazilian government—standing in the wings ready to take action to support their respective economies, the downside risks in the market remain quite low," wrote Randy Frederick, managing director of active trading & derivatives at Charles Schwab. "So the greater risk is still in missing out on the upside."
However, some economists were skeptical the speech will reveal any new details of policy plans. And some policymakers have expressed concern last week that piling on more bond purchases will do little to help the economy and that letting inflation rates gain could open the door to uncontrolled price hikes.
Meanwhile, oil prices slumpedas Tropical Storm Isaac swirled into the Gulf of Mexico, prompting energy companies to start shutting refineries. (Read More: Oil to Hit $100, but Experts Say Sell the Rally)
Apple gained to close at an all-time high after the iPhone maker won a $1.05-billion patent lawsuit against rival Samsung. Earlier, Apple hit an intraday high of $680.87 a share.
Samsung's stock tumbled more than 7 percent in Seoul, wiping out nearly $12 billion from the tech giant's market cap. The iShares MSCI South Korea Index Fund dropped more than 1 percent. Samsung makes up 22 percent of the ETF.
Other smartphone makers Research In Motion , Nokia and Microsoft gained following the verdict.
However, Google , the parent of the Android operating system, declined. (Read More: Apple-Google Drama 'Far From Over’)
Among earnings, Tiffany & Coslashed its fiscal-year earnings and revenue guidancefor the second quarter. Still, shares rallied after the luxury jewelry retailer said it expects to see a profit in the holiday season.
Meanwhile, Best Buy jumped after the consumer-electronics retailer said it has reached an agreement with founder Richard Schulze, allowing him to conduct due diligence and form an investment group with private equity sponsors.
AOL climbed after the company announced a one-time dividendof $5.15 a share, and said it will buy back $600 million of stock. The Internet company joins a flurry of others that have announced special dividends in the last three months including Limited Brands and Diamond Offshore Drilling .
On the M&A front, Hertz said it will acquire smaller rival Dollar Thrifty in a deal worth about $2.3 billion, putting an end to more than two years of takeover talks.
Kenexa skyrocketed after news IBM will purchase the employment-solutions company for about $1.3 billion.
And M&T Bank said it would acquire Hudson CityBancorp for $3.7 billion.
—By CNBC’s JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
Coming Up This Week:
TUESDAY: S&P Case-Shiller home price index, consumer confidence, Richmond Fed mfg index, 2-yr note auction
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage apps, GDP, corporate profits, pending home sales, oil inventories, 5-yr note auction, Beige Book; Earnings from Heinz, Pandora, TiVo
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, personal income & spending, 7-yr note auction, chain-store sales; Earnings from Zumiez
FRIDAY: Chicago PMI, consumer sentiment, factory orders, farm prices, Bernanke's Jackson Hole speech
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