Indexes cut losses to turn briefly positive on gains in consumer discretionary shares after data showed consumer confidence rose slightly in October. Hotel shares helped boost the sector after Bernstein raised its price targets on Marriott International Inc (MAR.N) and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc (HOT.N).
But the materials sector led the way down, weighed by soft commodity prices and disappointing results from the steel sector.
Broadly, equities continued to take their cue from the U.S. dollar, which steadied with the dollar index (.DXY) up 0.6 percent.
Stocks and the greenback have formed an inverse relationship, exacerbated by expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will embark on another round of economic stimulus.
«The driver today will be the dollar, which is pushing markets lower,» said Paul Nolte, managing director at Dearborn Partners in Chicago.
Earlier, data showed single-family home prices fell for the second straight month in August, hovering near recent lows after the expiration of popular homebuyer tax credits.
«On balance, the data is marginally worse than expected, given the revenue misses from many of the companies, and continued weak housing numbers,» said Nolte.
The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) edged up 5.86 points, or 0.05 percent, at 11,169.91. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (.SPX) eased 0.47 points, or 0.04 percent, to 1,185.15. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC) added 3.04 points, or 0.12 percent, to 2,493.89.
Texas Instruments Inc (TXN.N) fell 1.6 percent at $28.51 after it warned that fourth-quarter revenue will be hurt by slowing demand. The PHLX semiconductor index (.SOX) was off 0.4 percent.
U.S. Steel Corp (X.N) lost 3.5 percent to $40.77, and AK Steel Holding Corp (AKS.N) tumbled 4.4 percent to $12.75 after both companies posted quarterly losses and were downbeat about the fourth quarter.
The Dow Jones U.S. Hotels index (.DJUSLG) rose 0.5 percent, while Marriott gained 0.8 percent to $37.88, and Starwood added 0.7 percent to $58.