Stocks finished mixed in lackluster trading Monday, after the S&P 500 hit another record high and as investors were reluctant to make big bets ahead of the delayed September government jobs report, which was being released on Tuesday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 7 points, dragged by Boeing and UnitedHealth. The blue-chip index traded in a narrow 47-point range.
The S&P 500 retreated after hitting another intraday high, but finished slightly ahead. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq touched a 13-year high before closing 5 points ahead. The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, ended above 13.
Among key S&P sectors, health care led the laggards, while telecoms climbed.
Last week, major averages logged strong gains for the week, with the S&P 500 extending gains to a new high, as Wall Street cheered some better-than-expected corporate earnings results.
"Those that are looking for a pullback that lasts for more than a couple of hours should be patient and wait for a break of short-term trend line support on the S&P which is currently at 1,728," wrote Elliot Spar, market strategist at Stifel Nicolaus. "A clear break there also takes the S&P below the just pierced 1,730 level."
According to Deutsche Bank, of the 80 S&P 500 companies that have reported results so far, 70 percent have topped analysts' earnings expectations, but only 53 percent have beaten sales forecasts.
Over the weekend, JPMorgan reached a tentative $13 billion deal with the U.S. government over probes over the financial giant's handling of mortgage-backed securities that plummeted in value during the housing crash of the late 2000s.
On the economic front, existing home sales in September slipped 1.9 percent to an annual rate of 5.29 million units, while prices rose at their slowest pace in nearly five months, according to the National Association of Realtors. Economists polled by Reuters had expected home resales to fall 2.9 percent to a 5.30 million-unit rate.
Investors will be focused on economic reports that were delayed due to the 16-day government shutdown. September non-farm payrolls report will be released on Tuesday.
"The principal focus will be September's labor market report tomorrow, which is expected to show that ahead-of-the-shutdown, non-farm payrolls were up 180,000, while the unemployment rate was unchanged at the more than three-and-half-year low of 7.3 percent," Emily Nicol, an economist at Daiwa Capital, said in a note.
Meanwhile, Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans said it will be "tough" for the central bank to have sufficient confidence in the strength of the U.S. recovery by its meeting in December to start scaling back the bond-buying program because the government shutdown has left the economic picture unclear.
"October is a tough one. December? I think we need a couple of good labor reports and evidence of increasing growth, GDP growth. It is probably going to take a few months to sort that one out," Evans told CNBC.
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First published October 21 2013, 1:15 PM