By Chris Dieterich and Alexandra Scaggs
NEW YORK--Stocks started the week in lackluster fashion, with the Dow inching lower and the S&P 500 eking out a narrow gain, as investors cited lingering concerns about U.S. fiscal issues of the market's lack of direction.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.23 point, or less than 0.1%, to 12815.16. Last week, blue chips posted their third-straight weekly decline and their biggest weekly percentage drop in more than five months.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 0.15 point, or less than 0.1%, to close at 1380.00. The Nasdaq Composite Index slid 0.61 point, or less than 0.1%, to 2904.26.
Shares of Jefferies Group rallied 14% after the securities firm said it was being acquired by Leucadia National, a financial conglomerate that already owned a 29% stake in Jefferies. Leucadia shares fell 3%.
Titanium Metals soared 43% after the company agreed to be acquired by cast-metal parts maker Precision Castparts for approximately $2.9 billion in cash late Friday. Precision Castparts's shares rose 4.9%.
Investors said the markets will likely continue to pivot on news surrounding the series of tax increases and spending cuts set to go into effect at the end of this year.
On Friday, President Barack Obama reiterated that any deal would have to result in wealthy Americans paying more in taxes. Mr. Obama is slated to meet with Congressional leaders Friday to discuss fiscal issues.
"The only conversation we're having with clients, now that earnings season is mostly over, is about the fiscal cliff and election. It's not the minute-to-minute determinant, but it's all we're talking about," said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist with BTIG.
In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 closed 0.3% lower. Greece's approval of the 2013 budget, which was necessary for the country to receive its next tranche of bailout funds, helped to support sentiment early, but the gain failed.
Asian markets were mixed. China's Shanghai Composite rose 0.5% following news that the trade surplus for October increased more than expected. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average shed 0.9% in response to news that the economy contracted 0.9% in the third quarter, stoking worry that the country may have slipped into recession.
Crude oil futures fell 0.6% to settle at $85.57 a barrel, while gold futures ended flat at $1,730.30 a troy ounce. The dollar eased against both the euro and the yen. Bond trading was halted for Veterans Day.
In other corporate news, Apple edged 0.8% lower after The Wall Street Journal reported Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC Corp. will have to pay licensing fees to Apple as part of a settlement of all outstanding patent disputes between the companies.
D.R. Horton fell 5.8%. The home builder booked strong quarterly profits and revenue, though they came in below Wall Street's estimates.
Beazer Homes USA declined 17% after reporting a wider-than-expected quarterly loss, although revenue rose more than forecast.
Celgene rose 5.8% after the company's subsidiary in Sweden said a Phase 3 trial of its treatment for pancreatic cancer met its primary goal, which will lead the company to submit registration papers in the U.S, Europe and other markets.
Clovis Oncology tumbled 42% in response to news that the company will suspend development of its treatment for pancreatic cancers following disappointing trial results.
Best Buy rose 3.6% after confirming that it has named Williams-Sonoma retired financial head Sharon McCollam as its new chief financial officer, effective next month.
Write to Chris Dieterich at email@example.com and to Alexandra Scaggs at alexandra.scaggs.com