The Dow industrials and the S&P 500 ended flat on Monday after a late-day bounce, as worries about slower global growth hitting corporate sales were offset by earnings that beat expectations.
Technology shares led the day's gains and push the Nasdaq up 0.4 percent, as shares of Apple Inc jumped 4 percent to $634.03. Apple is scheduled to report results on Thursday.
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The S&P 500 closed on Monday just below its 50-day moving average of 1,434 - seen as a strong support level - after trading well below it for much of the session.
Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar became the latest to exceed expectations on the bottom line - or profit - but fall short of revenue forecasts on the top line. The stock fell early, but the Dow component ended up 1.5 percent at $85.08.
Caterpillar also slashed its 2012 forecast for the second time this year due to slowing global demand.
Earnings have generally been beating lowered expectations, but revenues are coming in weak and profit warnings remain frequent.
"The issue with the earnings reports is the outlooks for next year and next quarter are maybe a little worse than people expected," said Bryant Evans, investment advisor and portfolio manager at Cozad Asset Management, in Champaign, Illinois.
Of the 123 S&P 500 companies that have reported results, 60.2 percent have topped analysts' expectations for earnings, but 61 percent have missed revenue forecasts, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Third-quarter earnings are expected to fall 2.4 percent from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 2.38 points, or 0.02 percent, to 13,345.89 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index inched up just 0.62 of a point, or 0.04 percent, to 1,433.81. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 11.33 points, or 0.38 percent, to close at 3,016.96.
After the bell, shares of Yahoo gained 2.5 percent to $16.17 following the release of its results. Yahoo's stock ended regular trading at $15.77, down 0.4 percent.
During the regular session, shares of mining company Freeport-McMoRan lost 1.5 percent to $40.58 after it said third-quarter profit fell sharply, missing Wall Street's estimates, because of a big drop in gold production in Indonesia.
On the up side was coal miner Peabody Energy Corp . Its stock surged 11.8 percent to $28.95 after the company reported a third-quarter profit that beat analysts' expectations as improved U.S. margins and higher Australian sales volumes offset price declines.
Ancestry.com Inc jumped 8 percent to $31.51 after the company said it will be acquired by a group led by European private equity firm Permira in a $1.6 billion deal.
Volume was roughly 5.8 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, compared with the year-to-date average daily closing volume of 6.52 billion.
Decliners slightly outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by a ration of about 15 to 14. On the Nasdaq, decliners were about even with advancers, with 1,233 shares falling and 1,219 stocks rising.
(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Jan Paschal)