Stocks: Starting from a peak

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Investors return Monday for what could be a quiet day of trading following the holiday weekend.

U.S. stock futures were flat ahead of the opening bell. Volume is expected to be light.

The Institute for Supply Management will release its monthly manufacturing index at 10 a.m. ET, and the Census Bureau will publish data on construction spending.

U.S. stocks wrapped up a stellar first quarter Thursday, with the S&P 500 finishing at a new high. U.S. markets were closed on Good Friday.

"We're coming off a great first quarter," said Art Hogan, managing director at Lazard Capital Markets, adding that "volume will most likely be light" on the Monday following Easter.

Thin trading could result in volatility, he said, even if there are no major news events.

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In company news, Tesla Motors (TSLA) jumped 12% in premarket trading after the electric car maker said it expects to achieve its first-ever quarterly profit based on strong sales of its all-electric Model S.

Time is running out at JCPenney
Time is running out at JCPenney

China released data Monday that indicated an acceleration in manufacturing activity. Separately, Beijing and Shanghai announced new measures designed to cool housing prices.

The Nikkei dropped 2.1% while the Shanghai Composite declined 0.1%.

Markets in London, Frankfurt, Paris and Hong Kong were closed Monday for an extended Easter holiday.

"We come into a day where we're the only game in town," said Hogan.

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