By Kate Gibson, MarketWatch
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks on Monday veered between gains and losses as Wall Street trained its European-focused gaze to Italy, where borrowing costs surged to their highest since the country took up the euro.
"From confidence votes in Greece to threats of being kicked from the Union, European drama remains as captivating as any of the 'reality' shows on television," noted Paul Nolte, managing director at Dearborn Partners.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) rose 23.88 points to 12,007.12, with 21 of its 30 components gaining ground.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX) add 1.4 points to 1,254.63, with telecom companies up the most and industrials falling hardest among its 10 industry groups.
The Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) fell 3.91 points to 2,682.28.
Decliners remained ahead of advancers on the New York Stock Exchange, where 485 million shares traded as of 2:50 p.m. Eastern.
"With Italy's benchmark yields rising, speculation began to mount that Prime Minister Berlusconi would resign in the days ahead. Italian stocks rallied as the rumors intensified, only to reverse when Berlusconi went on the record to tell the world -- on Facebook, no less -- that he wasn't planning on going anywhere," noted Kevin Giddis, a fixed-income strategist at Morgan Keegan & Co.
"With his support fading ahead of a key parliamentary vote [Tuesday], there is still a decent chance that Berlusconi will step down in the near future, but that would only be a first step in a long and painful process toward putting Italy on a firmer economic foundation," Giddis added.
In Greece, Prime Minister George Papandreou on Sunday agreed to step down, clearing the path for a new government.
In Brussels, European finance ministers planned to meet Monday to work on the details of a strategy for hiking the region's rescue fund.
Amgen Inc.'s (AMGN) shares jumped 5.3% after the biotech-drug developer said it would repurchase up to $5 billion of its stock and Dish Network Corp. (DISH) shares gained 4.7% after the satellite-television provider said it would pay a $2 a share dividend.