NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Stocks finished on a mixed note Monday, as investors avoided trades ahead of first quarter-earnings season, which began with

Alcoa's

(AA) - Get Report

results after the bell.

The aluminum producer reported an earnings per share excluding items of 28 cents, beating The Street's estimates by a penny. It, however, missed top line estimates, reporting revenue of $5.96 billion.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

added 1 point or 0.01%, at 12,381. The

S&P 500

gave up 4 points, or 0.3%, to close at 1324, while the

Nasdaq

closed lower by 9 points, or 0.3%, at 2771.

Despite significant deal activity Monday, investors stayed on the sidelines Monday as they braced themselves for the results season. Corporate profits are at record highs, thanks to strong improvements in productivity, and companies have managed to surpass expectations consistently over the past two years. However, rising input costs might mar the picture this quarter.

"We expect investors to view

first quarter results as good but not great," said UBS Strategist Thomas M. Doerflinger in a recent note. "Many companies will report strong earnings. But there should also be quite a few

earnings per share misses caused by rising input costs, and some companies are likely to cut

second quarter guidance due to rising input costs, regulatory pressure, and disruptions from Japan.

"With investors grown accustomed to a preponderance of positive surprises, we would not be surprised to see greater stock price volatility during earnings season," he added.

On the Dow,

Kraft

( KFT),

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

and

Travelers

(TRV) - Get Report

were showing the best performance, while

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

,

Chevron

(CVX) - Get Report

and

Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Report

were laggards.

Endo Pharmaceuticals

(ENDP) - Get Report

agreed to acquire

American Medical Systems

( AMMD) for $30 a share, or $2.9 billion in cash.

American Medical's stock soared 32% to $29.50.

Fiber networking company

Level 3 Communications

(LVLT)

jumped 18% to $1.70 after

announcing it will acquire data networker

Global Crossing

( GLBC) in a deal worth roughly $3 billion. Shares of Global Crossing skyrocketed 68.7% to close at $24.97.

Flower Foods

(FLO) - Get Report

picked up

Tasty Baking

( TSTY) for $4 a share, or roughly $165 million. The acquisition is expected to strengthen Flowers' snack cake business and expand its geographic reach. Tasty's stock more than doubled, gained $2.35 to $3.97. Shares of Flower Foods added 1.8% at $28.18.

Shares of

NYSE Euronext

(NYX)

were down 2.8% to $37.59 after the

exchange operator said its board rejected the $11.3 billion hostile takeover bid from

Nasdaq OMX

I:IXIC

and

IntercontinentalExchange

(ICE) - Get Report

.

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

said it would add 8,500 items to its discount stores and would launch a new advertising campaign promoting its low prices in a bid to rejuvenate its sales. Shares edged up by 0.5% to $52.82.

Biogen

(BIIB) - Get Report

,

Lexmark

(LXK)

,

Tyco

(TYC)

and

Abercrombie & Fitch

(ANF) - Get Report

were among the major gainers on the S&P.

In other news, President Obama is expected to unveil the White House deficit reduction plan on Wednesday. Congress successfully averted a government shutdown late Friday by agreeing to a plan that would lower spending by $39 billion, funding government operations for the next six months.

Forces loyal to Ivory Coast's democratically elected president Alassane Ouattara, backed by the United Nations and French forces,

captured and arrested incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, according to media reports.

Northeastern Japan was hit by another powerful aftershock on Monday, exactly a month after a massive quake and subsequent tsunami critically damaged the country's Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, spurring fears about a nuclear crisis.

Japan's Nikkei slipped 0.5% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined by 0.4%. London's FTSE was gaining 0.1% while the DAX in Frankfurt was down by 0.1%.

In commodity markets, oil prices retreated from $112 a barrel with the May crude contract down by $2.87 to settle at $109.92 a barrel.

Gold investors were taking advantage of record highs to lock in profits . The June gold contract fell $6 to close at $1,467.40 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury rose 4/32, diluting yield to 3.568%. The dollar strengthened against a basket of currencies with the dollar index up by 0.1%.

.

--Written by Melinda Peer and Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York

.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.