U.S. stocks barely budged Monday, despite upbeat economic and corporate news, as investors were reluctant to push prices higher following four weeks of gains.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.1% and the S&P 500 lost 0.2%. The Nasdaq rose 0.1%.
Despite the modest retreat, the S&P 500 closed just above the 1,500 level. It finished above that key threshold Friday for the first time since December 2007. After posting gains for the past four weeks, the S&P 500 has gained more than 5% so far in 2013.
With stocks at such lofty levels, investors are wary of placing big bets ahead of a series of labor reports due later this week, said J.J. Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at TD Ameritrade. "People are reluctant to pull the trigger one way or the other until we get more clarity," he said.
In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note briefly rose above 2% for the first time since April 2012. The rise in yield, which reflects a fall in price, came as investors welcomed a better-than-expected report on durable goods orders.
The Census Bureau said orders for long-lasting goods rose 4.6% in December, compared with the 1.6% rise economists had forecast.
The National Association of Realtors said its index of pending home sales fell 4.3% in December. The index is based on the number of contracts signed in a month, but does not measure actual closings.
Meanwhile, Caterpillar said fourth-quarter earnings fell 55% to $1.04 per share, reflecting a previously disclosed $580 million charge. Excluding the one-time item, Caterpillar's results topped analyst estimates, sending shares up nearly 2%.
Caterpillar, the biggest seller of construction equipment in the world, said the U.S. economy will continue to improve this year, but warned that "growth is expected to be relatively weak." Despite an uncertain outlook for the global economy, Caterpillar said 2013 could be a record year for the company.
After the market closed, Yahoo said it earned $283 million, or 32 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, topping analyst expectations. Shares were up nearly 5% in after-hours trading.