NEW YORK —
"There's a little bit of swapping chairs on the deck," Abate said.
Outside of earnings reports, traders were keeping a close eye on the Federal Reserve, which began a two-day meeting Tuesday and will release an updated policy statement Wednesday.
Conjectures about the central bank have had a powerful influence on the stock market in recent months. Traders have bought and sold stocks while hanging on to every word of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, looking for clues about when the Fed might pull back on its bond-buying program or start raising interest rates. The central bank has been buying bonds to try to prop up stocks and encourage borrowing. It has also been keeping interest rates low, all in an attempt to pump life into a lagging economy.
"This week it's all about Bernanke and the Fed statement," said Bill Strazzullo, chief strategist of Bell Curve Trading. "Stocks need a supportive statement ... to go higher. That is the key driver."
The Fed has said it might start to pull back on its bond purchases later this year if the economy continues to improve, but the timing remains uncertain. The Fed has also said it won't raise its benchmark short-term interest rate until the unemployment rate, which currently stands at 7.6 percent, dips below 6.5 percent.
Crude oil fell $1.47 to $103.08 a barrel in New York. The price of gold inched down $4.80 to $1,324.80 an ounce. The dollar rose against the Japanese yen and fell against the euro.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was unchanged from late Monday at 2.60 percent. The yield is a benchmark for many kinds of loans including home mortgages.
Among stocks making big moves:
—Coach dipped $4.55 to $53.30. Goodyear jumped $1.52 to $18.56.
—The Mosaic Co., maker of a key ingredient in crop fertilizers, was the worst performer on the S&P 500. It plunged after a Russian fertilizer company said it would drop out of a cartel that keeps prices high. Mosaic fell $9.15, or 17 percent, to $43.81.
— Masco jumped $1.06, or 5 percent, to $20.80. The company, which makes cabinets, plumbing fixtures and other building products, posted better-than-expected earnings late Monday, boosted by a surge in home construction.