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The markets struggled Monday, with the S&P 500's eight-day winning streak in jeopardy, as traders parsed through mixed data on the U.S. economy.
As of 12:50 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 13.3 points, or 0.1%, to 13883, the S&P 500 slipped 2 points, or 0.13%, to 1501 and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 7.3 points, or 0.25%, to 3158.
The Dow and S&P are both trading at their highest levels since 2007, with the blue-chip average posting its best start to a year in a quarter century. The move higher has been supported by easing of U.S. fiscal and European debt worries, along with generally upbeat corporate earnings.
This week could prove to be a major test to see whether Wall Street's rally can endure. There are several important pieces of economic data, including fourth-quarter U.S. gross domestic product and the monthly employment report, on tap. There are also a slew of high-profile earnings and a Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting.
Caterpillar (CAT) kicked off the week by posting fourth-quarter earnings that were hit by a big goodwill impairment charge. Excluding that item, the world's biggest maker of heavy machinery's quarterly EPS topped estimates. Meanwhile, sales came in slightly short and its full-year guidance came in toward the lower end of analysts' forecasts. Yahoo (YHOO) weighs in after the closing bell.
On the economic front, the Commerce Department said orders for long-lasting goods climbed 4.6% in December from November, significantly outpacing estimates of a 1.8% increase. Excluding the transportation segment, orders were up 1.3%, topping estimates of a 0.7% increase.
Separately, U.S. pending home sales fell 4.3% in December from November, according to the National Association of Realtors. Sales were expected to rise 0.3%. Still, the indicator is up 6.9% from the same month in 2011, highlighting the substantial recovery taking place in the housing sector.
Elsewhere, Fitch Ratings said if Congress successfully passes legislation to temporarily suspend the debt ceiling, it will remove the near-term risk to the America's top-notch "AAA" credit rating. The move was already passed in the House, and now awaits Senate approval. President Barack Obama has said he will support such legislation.
Oil futures ticked higher. The benchmark contract traded in New York climbed 34 cents, or 0.35%, to $96.22 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.11% to $2.872 a gallon. In metals, gold was flat at $1,658 a troy ounce.
The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.07% to 2746, the English FTSE 100 climbed 0.03% to 6286 and the German DAX dipped 0.09% to 7850.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slid 0.94% to 10824 and the Chinese Hang Seng advanced 0.39% to 23672.