The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed fractionally higher, helped by strength in Wal-Mart and Boeing, but the broader market failed to gain traction.
The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 traded posted moderate losses. Volume was below average and the market meandered in a narrow range most of the day. Investors exchanged 1.4 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.9 billion on the Nasdaq.
All of the S&P 500 sectors, with the exception of utilities, were trading flat to lower at the end of the session.
Even billions of dollars worth of takeover deals failed to significantly ignite much buying.
"The market is struggling with this split vote on whether the bull market can continue with no correction," Barry Hyman, Equity Market Strategist at EKN Financial Services, told CNBC.com. "In the absence of any economic news, there's little to push the market either way except for this bull/bear debate that we're having."
Decliners posted a modest lead over advancing shares on the New York Stock Exchange.
"We had a big week and a lot of data last week, so it's not unusual for the market to pause for a day or two after that," Stephen Porpora, Managing Floor Broker at William O'Neil, told CNBC.com. "There's not really anything in particular moving the markets right now."
Business activity in the services sector increased in January at a stronger-than-expected pace. The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index was 59.0 in January, up from 57.1 in December.
Treasury prices rose, sending yields lower, following the release of the services data.
In the energy market, New York light crude futures closed lower after seesawing much of the day. Crude rose early in the session as colder weather settled into the Northeastern section of the U.S., pushing up demand for heating oil.
Despite a lackluster session, some traders remained optimistic about stocks near-term.
"We're seeing a lot of buying in large caps on pullbacks," Joe Ranieri, Managing Director of NASDAQ Trading at Canaccord Adams, told CNBC. "We're seeing some profit-taking on some of the small caps that are being boosted by this large cap rally. I think as far as the Nasdaq is concerned, we've got a few months of this ride still to go."
Wal-Mart reported a gain of 2.2% in comparable-store sales for the first month of the year, however the world's largest retailer also suggested it will deliver the worst annual same-store sales growth in more than 25 years.
Shares of Dow component Boeing roseafter UPS ordered 27 cargo jets from aerospace company. At list prices, the deal is worth at least $3.9 billion.
Other Dow winners included IBM and Hewlett-Packard . Hewlett-Packard agreed to buy Bristol Technology, a private company that provides technology to monitor business transactions.
Shares of computer maker Dell rose after Credit Suisse upgraded the company to outperform from neutral.
Private equity groups clearly haven't lost any appetite for deals, as more companies were reported as takeover targets.
Lear Corporation announced that American Real Estate Partners LP, an affiliate of Carl Icahn, has offered to buy the company for $36 per share in cash. The deal is valued at $2.43 billion. Lear is one of the world's largest suppliers of automotive interior systems and components.
Vornado Realty Trust tried to make its $23.2 billion bid for Equity Office Properties Trustmore attractive to shareholders by offering to pay the cash portion of the offer up front.
Shares of Investors Financial Services Corporation surged after State Street Corporation said it had agreed to buy the company for about $4.5 billion in stock.
Triad Hospitals announced that it will be taken over by private equity groups for $4.7 billion,
Simon Property Group and hedge fund Farallon Capital Management made a $1.56 billion offer for mall operator Mills . Mills agreed to be acquired by Brookfield Asset Management last month.
And on Friday Whitney V offered to buy out Herbalifefor about $2 billion.
Shares of KLA-Tencor rose after the company said it expects third-quarter revenues of $700 million to $715 million, better than what Wall Street was expecting.
DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler division plans to cut 10,000 jobs and close three U.S. factories, according to reports in two Detroit newspapers. The cost-cutting plan is designed to make the struggling division smaller and more efficient.