By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Monday after data showed the pace of growth in the services sector slowed for a second straight month in December while new orders for U.S. factory goods rebounded in November.
Technology stocks kept the benchmark S&P 500 flat after a Morgan Stanley downgrade of the whole sector. Notes on Twitter and eBay weighed on shares of both companies and Apple shares were also lower.
Globally, service industry growth slowed sharply in China in December but picked up across most of Europe, suggesting that an uneven global economic performance persists.
A separate report from financial data firm Markit showed U.S. private sector economic activity growth slowed slightly in December.
Traders are still second-guessing the Federal Reserve's take on economic data and how it might alter the U.S. central bank's plan to withdraw its stimulus, said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments in Lisle, Illinois.
"On balance today's data is not going to raise concerns the Fed may accelerate the taper," he said.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 30.25 points or 0.18 percent, to 16,500.24, the S&P 500 gained 1.89 points or 0.1 percent, to 1,833.26 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 10.337 points or 0.25 percent, to 4,121.569.
RBC Capital Markets raised its year-end target on the S&P 500 to 2,075, about 13 percent above current levels, citing a "slower, extended economic recovery" which will provide support for stocks throughout the year.
Icy conditions snarled travel across the U.S. Midwest and thousands of flights were canceled or delayed over the weekend, as forecasters warned that life-threatening cold was heading eastward.
"This cold weather front is likely to impact economic activity somewhat," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
Liberty Media said Friday it would offer to buy out the minority shareholders in satellite radio provider Sirius XM . Sirius shares jumped 7.3 percent to $3.83.
Apparel retailer Men's Wearhouse mounted a hostile bid for rival Jos. A. Bank Clothiers with a raised offer, days after the smaller rival raised its buyout defenses. Men's Wearhouse shares gained 3.3 percent to $52.24 and Jos. A Bank added 4.1 percent to $56.64.
Twitter shares fell 6.1 percent to $64.76 after being downgraded at Morgan Stanley. The stock had surged nearly 70 percent in the past six weeks.
Morgan Stanley cut eBay to neutral weight, sending its shares down 3.7 percent to $51.31.
Ford Motor Co and its local partners boosted sales in China by nearly 50 percent last year, nudging past Japanese giants Toyota <7203.T> and Honda <7267.T> to make big inroads into the world's largest auto market. Ford shares rose 1.2 percent to $15.70.
Solar panel shares were in focus. ReneSola rose 3.9 percent to $4.23 after it secured a contract to supply solar panels to a solar project developer based in Japan; SolarCity was up 11.2 percent to $65.91 after Goldman Sachs added it to its "conviction buy" list.
The U.S. Senate is set to vote at 5:30 p.m. (2230 GMT) to confirm Janet Yellen as the next head of the Federal Reserve. Yellen has been the central bank's vice chair since 2010 and is widely seen as continuing the policies set in place by current chair, Ben Bernanke.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)