S&P Logs Best Close Since 2008; Dow Slips

Stocks abruptly turned mixed in the final seconds of trading Monday, with the Dow ending in negative territory, while the S&P 500 still managed to log its best close since June 2008.

Still, the Dow and the S&P 500 are both on track to posting their best February since 1998.

The Going Gets Tough...

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down 1.44 points, or 0.01 percent, to close at 12,981.51, turning lower in the final minutes of trading and failing to close above the psychologically-important 13,000 level.

H-P and Boeing were the biggest laggards on the blue-chip index, while JPMorgan and BofA climbed.

The Dow was trading in positive territory for most of the session after rebounding from a 100-point drop at the market open.

The S&P 500 rose 1.85 points, or 0.14 percent, to end at 1,367.59, logging its best finish since June 2008. The Nasdaq added 2.41 points, or 0.08 percent, to finish at 2,966.16, posting its best close since December 2000.

The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, closed above 18.

Among the key S&P sectors, banks and consumer discretionary closed in positive territory, while energy slipped.

“I’m in the skeptical camp,” said Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS Financial Services. “While, it’s dangerous to be short in this market because they keep coming back to you, the market rally is a little long in the tooth."

On the economic front, pending home sales gained 2 percent to 97.0, surging to a nearly two-year high in January, according to the National Association of Realtors. Homebuilders Lennar and Toll Brothers gained following the report.

European shares slumped after members of the Group of 20 leading economies told Europe it must raise extra fundsto combat the ongoing debt crisis if it wants more aid from the rest of the world, adding pressure to Germany to drop its opposition to a bigger European bailout.

Meanwhile, German lawmakers approved a second loan package for Greece even after Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier warned that there was no guarantee the 130 billion ($175 billion) rescue program for the debt-ridden country would succeed.

The euro eased against the U.S. greenback, but strategists believe further gains are possible ahead of the ECB's second offering of unlimited 3-year loans to banks in a longer term refinancing operation (LTRO) on Wednesday.

"The LTRO at mid-week is a bit of a puzzlement because we don't know if a big number is good or not," said Cashin.

On the tech front, Applereboundedto hit an all-time high after BMO raised its price target on the iPad maker to $590 from $545. The tech giant's market cap is currently above $490 billion. (Read More: As Apple Grows Ever Bigger, Will Investors Fear Size?)

Micron Technology surged to lead the S&P 500 gainers after the chipmaker's Japanese rival Elpida Memoryfiled for bankruptcy protection.

Meanwhile, Netflix declined after Raymond James cut its rating on the movie-streaming company to "underperform" from "market perform."

Sprint's board of directors decided to walked away from a nearly finalized dealto acquire MetroPCS . The dropped deal comes on the heels of AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile last year, which failed due to opposition from government regulators.

Lowe's rallied after the home-improvement chain posted higher-than-expected sales, thanks to the warm weather that prompted more homeowners to take up renovation projects.

Dendreon plunged more than 20 percent after the biotech company posted weaker-than-expected demand for its prostate cancer treatment Provenge. Rivals including Celgene and Amgen also slipped.

Disney edged higher after Goldman Sachs has upgraded the media conglomerate to "conviction buy" from "neutral", citing ESPN's performance in addition to strength in theme parks.

Priceline.com is scheduled to post earnings after-the-bell tonight.

Oil prices snapped a 7-day rallyafter surging to 10-month highs in the previous week amid concerns over disruptions to Middle East oil supplies. Oil prices have rallied almost 15 percent in the past month, causing concerns that the gain will put a damper on the economic recovery as consumers feel pain at the pump.

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Coming Up This Week:

TUESDAY: Durable goods orders, S&P Case-Shiller home price index, consumer confidence, Fed's Pianalto speaks, JPMorgan Chase investor day; Earnings from Office Depot, DreamWorks Animation
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage apps, GDP, Fed's Fisher speaks, Chicago PMI, Bernanke speaks, oil inventories, Fed's Plosser speaks, Beige Book; Earnings from Costco, Staples
THURSDAY; Fed's Pianalto speaks, jobless claims, personal income and spending, ISM mfg index, construction spending,  Fed's Lockhart speaks, Fed's Williams speaks, auto sales, chain store sales, EU summit; Earnings from Big Lots, Kroger, Wendy's
FRIDAY: Fed's Bullard speaks, Yelp set to trade

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