Stocks edged lower at the open on Monday, as the benchmark S&P 500 pulled back from its best weekly performance since June after data in China increased worries over a slowing global economy.
Chinese imports fell 2.6 percent on the year in August, short of expectations for a 3.5 percent rise. Exports grew 2.7 percent, below forecasts for a 3 percent rise in a Reuters poll. The data increased the odds of more Beijing-backed spending to deal with the damage done to the domestic economy by firms cutting production, inventories and imports due to weak global demand.
Investors are expected to grapple with a host of events this week which could greatly impact markets, including the possibility of more stimulus measures from the Federal Reserve and a ruling by Germany's constitutional court on the legality of the euro zone's permanent financial rescue fund.
The benchmark S&P 500 index rose 2.2 percent last week, its biggest weekly gain in three months on increasing expectations for more stimulus measures, as a disappointing jobs report on Friday served to further boost those expectations.
"There is some apprehension as to whether or not the Fed is actually going to put something in place based on the jobs report we saw on Friday, so that has people - in general terms - on hold until they see something they can act on," said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Capital in Jersey City, New Jersey.
"That being said, we had a pop last week we haven't really given up on yet and the principal reason is because people, in the back of their minds, still feel as though there is going to be some move taken by the Fed to support the lagging numbers."
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dropped 19.61 points, or 0.15 percent, to 13,287.03. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> lost 1.07 points, or 0.07 percent, to 1,436.85. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> shed 3.34 points, or 0.11 percent, to 3,133.09.
American International Group Inc shed 1.9 percent to $33.36 after the U.S. Treasury Department said it will sell most of its stake in the insurer, making the government a minority investor for the first time since it rescued the company in the depths of the financial crisis four years ago.
Plains Exploration & Production Co said it will buy BP Plc's stake in some deepwater Gulf of Mexico wells for $5.55 billion to boost its oil production. U.S.-listed shares of BP edged up 0.2 percent to $42 and Plains Exploration slumped 8.5 percent to $36.90.
Titan Machinery Inc shares dropped 15.2 percent to $21.50 after the farm equipment retailer cut its full-year profit forecast after it reported a lower-than-expected quarterly profit as the worst drought in 56 years in the U.S. Midwest hit prices of tractors and combines.
(Editing by Dave Zimmerman)