Stocks ended slightly higher across the board in narrow trading Monday, with the Dow logging a four-day rally, but gains were limited as investors remained reluctant to jump in amid ongoing "fiscal cliff" negotiations.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average eked out a gain of 14.75 points, or 0.11 percent, to end at 13,169.88, led by Hewlett-Packard and Cisco. The Dow has not seen a four-day win streak in nearly two months.
The squeezed out a gain of 0.48 points, or 0.03 percent, to finish at 1,418.55. The Nasdaq rose 8.92 points, or 0.30 percent, to close at 2,986.96. The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded above 16.
Among key S&P sectors, materials and industrials gained, while consumer discretionary slipped.
"The narrow trading range of 1,386 to 1,433 on the S&P is still intact and very well known to most observers," wrote Elliot Spar, market strategist at Stifel Nicolaus. "A breakout out on the upside on a cliff deal could take the S&P back up to the early-year high at 1,474 (This assumes the rally lasts for more than two days). Then reality will set in: It's still an economy growing at 2 percent and higher taxes and lower government spending are drags on growth not upside catalysts."
President Obama spoke to workers at the Daimler plant in Detroit, saying he opposes the proposed "right to work" laws in MIchigan, criticizing a measure that would prevent requiring non-union employees to financially support unions at their workplace.
With no major economic reports, investors continued to watch for clues from both Democrats and Republicans on the progress of the "fiscal cliff."
On Sunday, Obama met with Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, but the two sides didn't provide further details about the previously unannounced meeting. (Read More: )
"I think we can handle even going over the cliff—but I don't think we can go on much beyond mid-January," said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management. "If we do, that will get more detrimental to markets, confidence and could really change forecasts for the year. But I'm with the assumption that they're going to have some agreement, and on that basis, if there's extreme volatility toward December 31 on the downside, that's a buying opportunity."
Apple was lower after Jefferies slashed its price target on the iPhone maker to $800 from $900. The tech giant suffered its worst weekly decline since May 2010 and is trading down more than 20 percent from its all-time high of $705 a share in September. (Read More: )
H-P rallied amid rumors that billionaire investor Carl Icahn may be interested in building a stake in the company.
Ingersoll-Rand gained after the diversified manufacturer said it will spin off its security division and buy back $2 billion of shares. In addition, the company boosted its quarterly dividend to 21 cents a share.
Priceline.com slumped to lead the S&P 500 laggards after Deutsche Bank cut its rating on the travel website to "hold" from "buy" and lowered its price target to $710 from $800.
Over the weekend, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti announced he will resign after Italy's 2013 budget is approved. Monti's announcement came shortly after the party of former Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, withdrew its support for Monti's technocratic government.
—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
Coming Up This Week:
TUESDAY: NFIB small biz optimism index, international trade, wholesale trade, 3-yr note auction, FOMC mtg begins; Earnings from Dollar General
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage apps, import/export prices, oil inventories, FOMC mtg announcement, 10-yr note auction, FOMC forecasts, Bernanke press conference, 3M 2012 outlook mtg, OPEC mtg; Earnings from Costco
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, PPI, retail sales, business inventories, 30-yr bond auction; Earnings from Hovnanian, Pier 1 Imports, Adobe Systems
FRIDAY: CPI, industrial production, Facebook lockup lifts
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