NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Stocks closed mostly flat on Monday as investors refrained from making big bets ahead of key quarterly reports later this week and top economists lowered growth estimates for 2010 and 2011.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

finished slightly higher by 3 points at 11,010, after briefly falling below 11,000. The

S&P 500

was flat at 1165, and the

Nasdaq

was also unchanged at 2,402.

Stocks stuck to a tight trading range on Monday, with no major economic reports and earnings announcements to guide investor action.

Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

,

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get Report

and

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

were the biggest gainers on the Dow while

DuPont

(DD) - Get Report

and

3M

(MMM) - Get Report

dragging the blue-chip index lower.

The

SPDR S&P 500 ETF

(SPY) - Get Report

rose 0.1% while the

PowerShares QQQ Trust

(QQQQ)

ended slightly higher at $49.77.

Market sentiment was mixed, with four stocks declining for every five that advanced.

Disappointing employment numbers last week has kept the focus on the macro-economic story even as investors pace themselves for third-quarter reporting season, which kicked off unofficially with

Alcoa's

(AA) - Get Report

results last week.

The National Association of Business Economics surveyed 46 economists on their economic outlook and the experts were decidedly more cautious in their outlook than they were five months ago. The panel reduced its forecast for annual economic growth to 2.6% in 2010 and 2011,

The Associated Press

reported, down from 3.2% in May.

A worsening outlook for the economy has been steadily increasing expectations of further monetary action from the

Federal Reserve

to boost economic activity. The market will be looking for further cues to the Fed's action in Tuesday's release of the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's September meeting.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

According to a recent note from Deutsche Bank, questions surrounding quantitative easing have shifted from whether there will be additional measures to what form the easing will take.

"We think it is a low probability of a 'shock and awe' announcement, because of the hawks' resistance. This approach requires a bigger balance sheet, leaving the Fed with less flexibility in a scenario where the economic data improve and/or the dollar reacts negatively to the news," said a group of Deutsche Bank research analysts.

"The more likely scenario, we think, is buy-as-you-go, a more targeted approach where

the balance sheet might be biased to expand, but modestly and only more so if yields are deemed too high by Fed."

Meanwhile, an

International Monetary Fund meeting

over the weekend failed to yield a solution regarding how to handle global currency discrepancies, leading U.S. to step up its pressure on China over its exhange-rate policy.

Overseas on Monday, Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 1.2% while Japan's Nikkei was closed for a holiday. The FTSE in London inched 0.3% higher, as did the DAX in Frankfurt.

In other news, Peter Diamond of MIT, Dale Mortensen of Northwestern University and Christopher Pissarides of the London School of Economics were awarded the

2010 Nobel Prize in economics by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

In stock news, investors eagerly anticipate the third-quarter results from key index heavyweights this week, including

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

on Tuesday,

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get Report

on Wednesday,

Google

(GOOG) - Get Report

on Thursday and

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

TheStreet Recommends

on Friday.

Energy stocks were among the outperformers on Monday. Shares of

Chesapeake Energy

(CHK) - Get Report

rose 1.1% to $ 23.30 on news of its sale of a 33.3% interest in Eagle Ford Oil and Gas to Chinese state-owned conglomerate

CNOOC

(CEO) - Get Report

for $2 billion.

Shares of

Sandridge

(SD) - Get Report

shed 4% to $5.47 on news that the CEO Tom Ward sold approximately 22% of his stock, atleast double the size of the largest sale he has made in the last two years.

Shares of meat producers

Pilgrim's Pride

(PPC) - Get Report

,

Tyson Foods

(TSN) - Get Report

,

Hormel Foods

(HRL) - Get Report

and

Sanderson Farms

(SAFM) - Get Report

were trading lower as corn prices surged on supply concerns spurred by a U.S. Department of Agriculture report last week. Shares of Pilgrim's Pride saw among the steepest declines, down 2.4% to $5.68. Corn for December delivery jumped to a two-year high and was settled 27 cents higher at $5.55 a bushel.

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

re-entered the smartphone contest with the launch of the Windows Phone 7 operating system. Shares ended flat at $24.59.

Gymboree

(GYMB)

is being acquired by private investment firm

Bain Capital

for $1.8 billion, or $65.40 a share. Gymboree's stock soared by 22.4% to $64.83.

Morgan Stanley

(MS) - Get Report

is leading an initial public offering for online video-content company

Hulu

. The prospectus is expected to be filed with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

for the end of the year. The stock was down 0.7% at $25.14.

Shares of

BP

(BP) - Get Report

lost 1.5% to $41.30 after the stock was downgraded to hold from buy at RBS, while shares of

EMC

(EMC)

gained 0.9% to $20.06 on a Deutsche Bank upgrade to buy from hold.

LDK Solar

(LDK)

boosted its third-quarter outlook for sales to $610 million to $640 million and for wafer shipments to 550 megawatts to 570 megawatts. The stock jumped 15.5% to $11.32.

Stocks of

Jinko Solar

(JKS) - Get Report

and

SunTech Power

(STP)

also surged by 15% and 12% respectively.

The stock of

Harbin Electric

(HRBN)

was up 16.3% at $23.22

after the Chinese electronics firm agreed to a complete buyout by

Baring Private Equity Group

.

In commodity markets, crude oil for November delivery shed 45 cents to trade at $82.25 a barrel, and the December gold contract added $9.1 to settle at $1,354.40 an ounce.

Meanwhile, the dollar was trading higher against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index up by 0.4%. U.S. bond markets are closed for the Columbus Day holiday.

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

.

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