U.S. stocks closed lower on Monday, ending three consecutive days of gains as investors remained cautious ahead of earnings season. (Tweet This)
"There's not a single catalyst," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. "I think we have pre-game jitters ahead of earnings reports."
"It will be very interesting to listen to the companies on where they see the economy and how they are handling the current situation," said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management.
Kim Forrest, senior equity analyst at Fort Pitt Capital, is watching Tuesday's retail sales and JPMorgan earnings.
"I don't think any of the economic data points to a recession but the banks would be the first to show if the people they lend to—especially in the credit card sector—are seeing signs of pressure," she said.
Under pressure from the strong dollar and low oil prices, corporate profit expectations are significantly negative for the first time in six years, with Thomson Reuters reporting a likely 2.9 percent drop in S&P 500 net income.
"We really have a bias towards financials this week in terms of earnings reporting," Hogan said. "Everyone tries to extrapolate what JPMorgan means for P&G."
"Last week was really driven by the strong energy trade and M&A," he said.
General Electric closed down 3 percent, pressuring the Dow and S&P 500 industrials. The stock surged 10.8 percent on Friday after the announced restructuring of GE Capital and stock buybacks. The appliance and industrial products manufacturer reports quarterly earnings before the bell on Friday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up morning gains to close down 80.61 points, or 0.45 percent, at 17,977.04, with JPMorgan Chase ending 0.60 percent higher to lead five blue chip advancers and GE the greatest laggard.
The S&P 500 also lost early gains to closed down 9.63 points, or 0.46 percent, at 2,092.43, with industrials the greatest of 9 declining sectors and financials the only advancer.
The Nasdaq dipped in and out of negative territory before closing down 7.73 points, or 0.15 percent, at 4,988.25, despite the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB) holding modest gains of 0.24 percent.
The Russell 2000 edged higher but fell short of setting a record.
"Today really ... is just a waiting game," said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group. Stocks are moving "a little bit (on) the dollar and oil. That's going to help us but I'm not sure which way."
The U.S. dollar rose against major world currencies, with the euro lower below $1.06. Oil pared gains with crude settling up 27 cents at $51.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.