Stocks Close Flat, S&P 500 Briefly Hits Fresh All-Time High; Materials Lag

Stocks finished flat in lackluster trading Monday after the S&P 500 briefly touched a new all-time high.

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"This week, we'll be subject to global headlines more than the economic headlines," said Brian Battle, director and vice president of trading at Performance Trust Capital Partners. "This is more of a pause in the market than a selloff."

S&P 500

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 26.81 points to end at 15,091.68, led by Intel and Alcoa. The blue-chip index traded in a narrow 60-point range.

The S&P 500 squeezed out a gain of 0.07 points to close at 1,633.77 after touching a new all-time high of 1,636 earlier in the day. And the Nasdaq eked out a gain of 2.21 points to finish at 3,438.79, after briefly hitting a fresh 12-year high for the 11th-consecutive session.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, closed below 13.

Among key S&P sectors, materials and telecoms lagged, while health care and financials rose.

Also weighing on the market, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that the Federal Reserve may be getting ready to scale back its $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program in careful steps, although the timing of when that will start is still being debated.

"The Fed starts telegraphing the punch ahead of time—[the WSJ report] may be the first signal that QE is going to end sometime down the road," said Battle. "We're also going to have to see if the 10-year holds near 2 percent—if the Fed loses control, then that also has direct consequences for the housing market as it dictates mortgage rates."

Bernanke is expected to speak on the economy before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress on May 22.

Fed officials scheduled to speak this week include Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker, Fed Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin and Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota.

"In addition, people are also looking at the way the yen is getting destroyed in the forex market—Japanese bonds are selling off," said Battle.

The dollar extended its gains, hitting its highest level against the yen since October 2008 after the G-7 finance officials gave Japan's ultra-loose monetary policies the green light at a meeting over the weekend. The Dollar index is up for the third-consecutive session, gaining more than 1.5 percent in that time, the best three-day winning streak since last April.

On the economic front, retail sales unexpectedly rose 0.1 percent in April, according to the Commerce Department, after a revised 0.5 percent decline in March. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected sales to slip 0.3 percent.

"Retail sales expanded solidly in April and the figures for both February and March were revised higher," wrote Michael Feroli of JPMorgan in a note following the report. "While it is still early in the quarter, the risks to our previous projection of 1.5 percent real GDP growth in the second quarter are unbalanced, and we are revising our estimate up to 2.0 percent."

And business inventories for March were virtually unchanged at a seasonally adjusted $1.270 trillion, according to the Commerce Department. Economists expected a gain of 0.3 percent, according to Reuters, versus a 0.1 percent rise in February.

Monsanto came off its lows after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an Indiana farmer violated the giant agribusiness company's patent for a type of soybean.

Google briefly hit an all-time high at $882.47 a share. Analysts say the search engine giant's core performance has been strong and Android has performing well. In addition, the company's developer conference is scheduled for later this week.

Earnings season will take a quieter turn this week, with just two Dow components, Wal-Mart and Cisco, and 12 S&P 500 companies posting first quarter numbers.

Videogame publisher Take Two Interactive is scheduled to report results after the closing bell.

So far, 90 percent of S&P 500 companies have posted quarterly results, with 67 percent topping earnings expectations and 24 percent missing forecasts, according to Reuters. If all remaining companies post numbers in line with estimates, earnings will be up 5.3 percent on last year.

However, sales numbers have come in 1 percent below estimates on average, with only 46 percent of companies beating their revenue projections.

Meanwhile, data from China revealed that industrial output rose in April, but was still slightly below forecasts, confirming expectations that the government may take policy action to support the economy.

European shares snapped a four-day rally, with euro zone finance ministers set to meet in Brussels to discuss bank bailouts and the prospects of a banking union. They are also expected to sign off on the latest tranche of aid for Greece.

—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park. Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC

Coming Up This Week:

TUESDAY: Small business optimism index, import/export prices, Morgan Stanley shareholder mtg
WEDNESDAY: MBA mortgage applications, PPI, Empire state mfg survey, Treasury international capital, industrial production, housing market index, e-commerce retail sales, oil inventories, AIG shareholder mtg; Earnings from Deere, Macy's, Cisco
THURSDAY: CPI, housing starts, jobless claims, Philadelphia Fed survey, natural gas inventories, Fed balance sheet/money supply, Comcast shareholder mtg, Hess annual mtg, Intel shareholder mtg, Tiffany shareholder mtg; Earnings from Wal-Mart, Kohl's, Applied Materials, Autodesk, Marvell Tech, Nordstrom, JCPenney
FRIDAY: Consumer sentiment, leading indicators, Chipotle shareholder mtg, Icahn/Transocean shareholder mtg, JCPenney annual mtg

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