NEW YORK — US stocks closed flat Monday as persistent fears about the looming "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax hikes at year-end overshadowed encouraging China trade data.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.23 point (0.00 percent) at 12,815.16.
The broad-market S&P 500 edged up a bare 0.15 point (0.01 percent) to 1,380.00, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite fell 0.61 (0.02 percent) to 2,904.26.
"The growing US fiscal cliff concerns continue to hamstring the bulls, keeping stocks in check," Charles Schwab & Co. analysts said.
Stocks opened modestly higher but struggled to stay out of the red in thin trading volume. The bond market was closed in observance of Veterans Day, a federal government holiday.
Providing support to the market was encouraging official data over the weekend on China's trade. Export growth accelerated in October for the second straight month, fresh evidence the world's second-largest economy is recovering from a slowdown.
United Technologies led the Dow higher, rising 1.5 percent, followed by AT&T, up nearly one percent.
Hewlett-Packard was the laggard, down 1.5 percent.
In mergers and acquisitions action, holding company Leucadia National will purchase the rest of what it does not already own of global investment banking firm Jefferies Group, the companies announced. Leucadia dropped 3.0 percent and Jefferies jumped 14.0 percent.
Titanium Metals soared 42.6 percent after announcing it would be bought by Precision Castparts in a $2.9 billion deal. Precision added 4.9 percent.
Canadian firm Research In Motion's US-traded shares rose 3.2 percent after it announced a January 30 launch of its next-generation BlackBerry 10 smartphone.
D.R. Horton tumbled 5.8 percent. The large Texas-based homebuilder reported a big jump in fiscal fourth-quarter profit from a year ago amid improvement in the ailing housing market.
Donald Horton, the company's chairman, said: "We are positioned for a strong start to fiscal 2013, with our highest year-end backlog since fiscal 2007."
Smaller rival Beazer Homes USA plunged 17.3 percent after reporting a larger-than-expected loss for the fiscal fourth quarter.
Leading Internet marketplace eBay fell 0.5 percent after launching a website with Chinese luxury online retailer Xiu.com, ebay.xiu.com, aimed at fashion-conscious shoppers.
On Friday, US stocks eked out small gains, capping a week of two percent losses amid growing worries about the "fiscal cliff," automatic spending cuts and expiring tax breaks at year-end unless Democrats and Republicans can reach a compromise to avoid them.