NEW YORK — Stocks ended mostly higher Monday ahead of a flurry of earnings reports that could determine whether the economy is really getting better, as investors have been hoping over the past month as they plunged money back into the market.
Early signs were promising. Goldman Sachs Group surprised investors after the end of trading Monday when it released better-than-expected quarterly results and announced a $5 billion stock offering. The company had been scheduled to report results early Tuesday.
The bank's $1.7 billion profit was just the sort of good surprise traders were eager for Monday as they snapped up financial stocks. Some are looking for signs of recovery, while others don't want to get burned if banks beat the low expectations the market has set for the industry.
The buying helped the Dow Jones industrial average turn a 120-point deficit into a modest loss of 26 points by the time the closing bell sounded. Broader indexes managed to post gains. Trading volume was light, which can skew the market's moves.
The occasional bouts of selling after a long holiday weekend were orderly and suggested that traders were reluctant to give up on a five-week rally. The earnings reports and economic figures due this week could reignite buying if they beat Wall Street's modest expectations.
"If you get a couple of earnings reports that are better than the worst that people expected, then that might help," said Denis Amato, chief investment officer at Ancora Advisors.
Beyond banks, industrial stocks ended mixed after Boeing and Chevron said the weak economy was hurting their results.
The market was unsettled by a New York Times report saying the Treasury has directed General Motors to lay the groundwork for a potential bankruptcy filing by June 1. GM might be forced to file if it cannot complete a plan to exchange debt for equity, according to the report.
The Dow fell 25.57, or 0.3 percent, to 8,057.81. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.17, or 0.3 percent, to 858.73, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 0.77, or 0.1 percent, to 1,653.31.
Boeing fell 5 percent and weighed on the Dow as analysts cut their ratings and estimates for the aircraft maker after it said it would reduce production of some jetliners next year. Chevron lost 1.8 percent after saying first-quarter earnings will be sharply lower due to falling oil and natural gas prices.
In other market action, the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies slipped 0.15, or less than 0.1 percent, to 468.05.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.86 percent from 2.92 percent late Thursday. The yield on the three-month T-bill fell to 0.16 percent from 0.17 percent late Thursday.
The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose. Light, sweet crude fell $2.19 to settle at $50.05 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 0.4 percent. Major European markets were closed Monday for Easter.