Earlier, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said the central bank cannot effectively combat high unemployment unless Congress and President Obama "get their act together" and fix the nation's fiscal problems.
"Kicking the can down the road for a few months will not solve the pathology of fiscal misfeasance that undermines our economy and threatens our future," Fisher said.
BlackBerry turned higher following a report from Dow Jones that Chinese PC and smartphone maker Lenovo is actively considering a bid for the handset company, according to sources.
Among earnings, newly-minted Dow component Goldman Sachs posted earnings that topped expectations, but revenue fell well below estimates, mainly due to weak bond-trading volumes, sending shares lower. Morgan Stanley, the last major financial company, is slated to post quarterly results Friday morning.
UnitedHealth also fell after the health insurance company posted earnings that matched Wall Street estimates, but revenue fell short of expectations.
Meanwhile, fellow Dow component Verizon climbed after the telecom company reported better-than-expected quarterly results, adding it expects wireless customer growth to improve sequentially in the fourth quarter.
Google, Capital One and Chipotle Mexican Grill are expected to post results after the closing bell.
(Watch: Art Cashin: Why I'm 'cautious' on earnings)
On the economic front, weekly jobless claims fell 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 358,000, according to the Labor Department. California continued to deal with a backlog related to computer problems. Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications to rise to 335,000 last week.
Meanwhile, factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region slowed slightly in October, but firms remained optimistic about the future, according to the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank.