Stocks were largely going nowhere by mid-afternoon Monday as crude oil cancelled out any positive momentum.
The S&P 500 was flat, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.17% and Nasdaq climbed 0.19%.
Crude oil prices were sharply lower after Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said the country wouldn't participate in negotiations with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries next week. Hopes had been high that OPEC members and non-member Russia could agree upon a production freeze in the face of tumbling oil prices, but are unlikely to do so unless all countries are on board. West Texas Intermediate crude oil dropped 3.4% to $37.18 a barrel, their lowest settlement since March 8.
Iran said "that those countries desiring a freeze in output 'should leave [Iran] alone' and allow the nation to regain lost sales and market share in line with its pre-sanctions output levels," Austin Sapp, commodity analyst at Schneider Electric, wrote in a note. "Iran's efforts to ramp up production have reinvigorated the narrative of global oversupply and have therefore struck a blow to the crude complex today."
The energy sector was the worst performer on markets Monday. Major oilers Exxon Mobil (XOM) , PetroChina (PTR) , Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) and Chevron (CVX) were all lower, while the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) slid 0.6%.
Worries over the Federal Reserve also kept investors on the sidelines. The Fed will convene on Tuesday with an announcement and press conference set for Wednesday afternoon. The majority of economists don't expect the Fed to increase rates at this meeting after making initial liftoff in December. Consensus is for a June hike.