NEW YORK - Wall Street started the week with a narrowly mixed performance Monday, with many investors moving to the sidelines as they wait for quarterly profit reports.
Stocks had popped higher in earlier trading, extending last week's big advance on talk of a $5 billion private equity investment in Washington Mutual. The nation's largest thrift is reportedly in discussions with buyout shop TPG and other investors about selling a stake in itself in return for cash.
But with earnings on tap and the Federal Reserve issuing minutes from its March meeting on Tuesday, investors, while clearly feeling more confident overall, decided to play it a little safer late in the day - especially with Alcoa announcing its first-quarter results after the close.
Alcoa was the biggest loser among the 30 Dow Jones industrials, falling $1.56, or 4 percent, to $37.44 ahead of its earnings release. The aluminum company said it had a 54 percent drop in first-quarter net income, a sharper decline than the market expected. Its shares were little changed in after-hours trading.
The broader market started pulling back when the Standard & Poor's 500 index began approaching the levels where it stood before Wall Street's massive selloff in early March, noted Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research.
The Dow rose 3.01, or 0.02 percent, to 12,612.43, after rising more than 120 points earlier in the day and finishing last week up 393.02, or 3.22 percent.
Broader stock indicators were mixed Monday. The S&P 500 index closed up 2.14, or 0.16 percent, at 1,372.54, after rising as high as 1,386.74. The Nasdaq composite index fell 6.15, or 0.26 percent, to 2,364.83.