U.S. stocks were little changed on Monday as gains in consumer stocks following encouraging data offset the impact of a dip in crude oil prices on the energy sector.
Consumer spending rose marginally in February and overall inflation retreated – factors that will feed into the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision on interest rates in 2016.
A stream of recent encouraging data, including Friday’s fourth-quarter U.S. GDP numbers, could embolden the Fed to raise rates sooner than expected even as central banks around the world consider more stimulus measures.
Investors will parse Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s comments, when she speaks in New York on Tuesday, for clues on when the central bank will raise rates.
“I think today’s action will be in anticipation of what Yellen will say tomorrow and if she gives an indication of what they will do in April when they meet,” said Mohanned Aama, managing director of Beam Capital Management in New York.
“Until we hear something noteworthy from the Fed, I don’t think we’re going to see any major trading,” Aama added.
At 11:06 a.m. ET (1507 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.17 points at 17,515.56, the S&P 500 was down 0.65 points, or 0.03 percent, at 2,035.29 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 8.13 points, or 0.17 percent, at 4,765.37.
Six of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower. The consumer discretionary sector was up 0.40 percent, while energy was off 0.63 percent.
Crude prices were down about 1 percent, slipping below the $40-a-barrel mark.
Noble Energy’s shares were down 6.6 percent at $30.21 after the company warned of a possible delay in the development of a key natural gas field in Israel.
Pandora was down 8.7 percent at $9.98 after the music streaming company said its founder Tim Westergren was coming back as chief executive.
Starwood Hotels was up 2.4 percent at $84.11 after it received a higher buyout offer from China’s Anbang Insurance Group. Marriott, which is also in the running to buy the U.S. hotel operator, was up 4.1 percent at $71.44.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,587 to 1,265. On the Nasdaq, 1,591 issues fell and 991 advanced.
The S&P 500 index showed 21 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 25 new highs and 20 new lows.