"Technically, the market still does look strong," said Todd Salamone, director of research at Schaeffer's Investment Research, noting the S&P 500's recent five-year high in addition to the Russell 2000 and the S&P Midcap's all-time highs. "But these consolidations are nothing new: you give me two pieces of good news and I can give you two pieces of bad news—jobless claims and M&A deals are the positives, while worries in Europe and VIX options expiring during expiration week are the negatives."
Salamone said whenever VIX options expire during an expiration week, the S&P 500 tends to see an average downside of about 0.53 percent in the latter half of the week. But during regular expiration weeks, the S&P averages a gain of 0.25 percent and is positive 62 percent of the time.
(Read More: Stocks Ahead of Economy, but Only Option: Welch)
H.J. Heinz soared more than 20 percent following an announcement that the maker of ketchup and other food products will be purchased by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G. The deal will be worth $72.50 a share, or $28 billion. Other packaged-goods companies were also trading higher in the wake of the announcement, including General Mills, Kellogg and Kraft Foods. (Read More: Cramer: This Is the 'Year of the Deal')
American Airlines and US Airways announced they will merge to form the largest airline in the world in a deal valued at $11 billion. Doug Parker, CEO of US Airways, who will become CEO of the new American. The deal comes after several turbulent years marked by bankruptcy protection filings and consolidation in the U.S. airline industry. (Read More: What Travelers Can Expect With American-US AirwaysDeal)
Also on the M&A front, Anheuser-Busch InBev said it had now agreed to sell Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo's Piedras Niegras brewery to Constellation Brands and grant it perpetual rights for Corona and other Modelo brands in the United States, in a deal valued at nearly $2.9 billion. Constellation Brands skyrocketed nearly 40 percent to lead the S&P 500 gainers.
Meanwhile, European shares were in the red across the board following a report that showed the euro zone fell deeper into recession, with GDP contracting 0.6 percent in the final quarter of 2012, as exports from leading economies Germany and France tumbled. The drop was the biggest since the first quarter of 2009. For the year, GDP fell by 0.5 percent.
And Japan's GDP shrank 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, disappointing expectations of a modest return to growth.