The Dow and the S&P 500 were nearly flat onMonday as disappointing German data increased concerns that prospects for global economic growth remain weak, but the market gained support from investors' purchases of some of the quarter's better performers.
An index of German business sentiment declined for a fifth consecutive month in September, showing Europe's strongest economy was moving closer toward recession as the euro zone's debt crisis remains unresolved.
Concerns about a stalling global economy were reflected in energy-related shares as the PHLX oil service sector index <.OSX> shed 1.3 percent to go with a 1.6 percent drop in U.S. crude oil. Worries about global demand pushed crude prices down more than 6 percent last week.
The S&P 500 rose nearly 6 percent from the start of August through mid-September on expectations of central bank stimulus. On September 6, the ECB announced its bond-buying plan, and a week later, the Federal Reserve announced a third round of quantitative easing intended to bolster the economy and reduce U.S. unemployment.
Normally after such a rally, the market would pull back. But the central bank actions have served to buoy stock prices and prevent a market pullback despite concerns about the global economy. The S&P 500 has been unable to muster a move of more than 0.4 percent in either direction since the Fed's announcement.
As the end of the third quarter approaches, investors are participating in "window dressing," where fund managers add some of the latest outperformers to their portfolio. The S&P 500 is up 7.1 percent for the quarter so far.
"Hedge funds remain somewhat short the market, and the end of the quarter is coming up, so I wouldn't be surprised to see equity markets push a bit higher over the near term," said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist of RDM Financial, in Westport, Connecticut.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 6.18 points, or 0.05 percent, at 13,585.65. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down just 0.95 of a point, or 0.07 percent, at 1,459.20. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 16.60 points, or 0.52 percent, at 3,163.36.
For the third quarter so far, the energy sector has performed well, with the S&P energy index <.GSPE> up 10.9 percent. The tech sector also has ranked among the better performers, with the S&P tech index <.GSPT> up 8.8 percent for the quarter.
In Monday's session, investors bought utility stocks. The S&P utilities index <.GSPU> was up 1.1 percent.
Transports also proved to be appealing in Monday's trading. The Dow Jones Transportation Average <.DJT> was up 1.1 percent.
Apple Inc , down 1.5 percent to $689.49, was the biggest drag on the Nasdaq 100 index <.NDX> even as its latest iPhone sold out. Concerns arose that the company was unable to produce the new phone quickly enough to meet demand.
Homebuilder Lennar Corp reported steep increases in its third-quarter earnings and revenue, while orders rose 44 percent. Despite the solid results, Lennar's stock slid 1.5 percent to $36.94.
Lennar's results follow a similarly strong report from KB Home and together indicate the housing market is moving toward recovery.
(Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Jan Paschal)