Stocks off to a mixed start on Wall Street ahead of earnings

Stock indexes are wavering between small gains and losses on Wall Street in early trading Monday as the market sheds some of its gains from last week.

The S&P 500 was essentially flat as gains in the technology sector and companies that rely on consumer spending outweighed losses in industrial, financial and other stocks. Noble Energy jumped 6.4% after the company agreed to be acquired by Chevron for $5 billion.

Treasury yields fell, reflecting caution among investors. European markets were mostly higher and Asian markets ended mixed.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 129 points, or 0.5%, to 26,545, while the Nasdaq composite added 0.8% and the Russell 2000 index of small company stocks gave up 0.6%.

The pullback in stocks comes as traders look ahead to a busy week of earnings reports from major U.S. companies, including IBM, Coca-Cola and Microsoft.

Wall Street is coming off its third straight weekly gain following improvements in hiring, retail sales and other parts of the economy, along with rising hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine. Underlying it all is massive aid for the economy and the promise of nearly zero interest rates from the Federal Reserve.

Still, worries remain that the rise of coronavirus counts across much of the country will derail efforts to reopen businesses shut down due to the pandemic.

Investors have an eye on Washington as Congress returns this week to begin work with the White House on another trillion-dollar economic aid package against the backdrop a renewed surge in the outbreak. The U.S. has now registered more coronavirus infections and a higher death count of 140,500 than any other country.

Bond yields fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 0.61% from 0.63% late Friday.

In the commodities markets, a barrel of U.S oil was down 1.2% to $40.11. Brent crude, the international standard, wa off 1% to $42.72 a barrel.