* Concerns about China's economy, Italy's political
* Investors take breather with stocks at high levels
* Dow down 0.2 pct, S&P down 0.1 pct, Nasdaq down 0.2 pct
By Leah Schnurr
NEW YORK, March 4 Wall Street was little changed
on Monday as investors took worries about global economic growth
and the euro zone debt crisis as opportunities to step back from
equities that have risen near record highs.
Plans to tighten curbs on the housing market in China and a
slowdown in growth of that country's services sector prompted
worries about growth in the world's second largest economy.
Announced by China's cabinet late on Friday, the government
could increase required downpayments and loan rates for buyers
of second homes in cities where prices are rising too quickly,
in the latest move to contain housing costs.
China's services industries expanded at the slowest pace in
five months in February.
The possibility of another Italian election on the horizon,
the automatic spending cuts that are starting to go into effect
in the United States and the new from China gave investors the
catalysts to take money off the table, analysts said.
"There's still a lot of uncertainty, but it doesn't seem
like the weakness has any follow-through because there's a lot
of people that have underperformed or are underinvested and jump
in on any kind of weakness," said Alan Lancz, president, Alan B.
Lancz & Associates Inc in Toledo, Ohio.
The Dow Jones industrial average was off 30.18
points, or 0.21 percent, to 14,059.48. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index slipped 1.33 points, or 0.09 percent, to 1,516.87.
The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 5.09 points, or 0.16
percent, to 3,164.65.
Stocks have climbed to multiyear highs in recent months,
putting the S&P 500 and Dow within sight of their record high
levels. The indexes are up more than 6 percent and 7 percent,
respectively, for the year so far.
The Dow is less than 1 percent away from hitting its
life-time closing high, while the S&P is 3 percent below its
Providing some support for the market, Janet Yellen, the
Federal Reserve's influential vice chairwoman, said the central
bank's aggressive monetary stimulus is warranted given how far
below its full potential the economy is operating.
Stocks were rattled last month by concerns the Fed could
start to wind down its stimulus efforts sooner than expected.
Domestically, the $85 billion in across-the-board spending
cuts officially started taking effect over the weekend. Stocks
have so far shrugged off concerns about the so-called sequester,
but signs the cuts are beginning to take a toll on the economy
could jostle markets.
Hess Corp rose 4.7 percent to $69.68 after it said
it will exit its retail, energy marketing, and energy trading