Apple rose after billionaire Carl Icahn asked the tech giant to commence an immediate tender offer of $150 billion in a letter to CEO Tim Cook. Icahn now owns roughly 4.7 million shares of Apple, up from 4 million shares.
Apple is undervalued and a massive buyback of shares is a "no brainer," Icahn told CNBC, adding that he could consider a proxy fight if the company did not buy back more shares.
Bank of America traded lower after a report that the financial giant is looking to eliminate 3,000 mortgage jobs before the end of the year as the company battles with declines in refinancing and in its portfolio of delinquent home loans.
Among earnings, Ford rallied after the automaker beat earnings estimates and raised its guidance for the full year. Rival General Motors also traded higher.
3M ticked higher after the conglomerate topped earnings and revenue estimates.
Symantec plunged more than 10 percent to lead the S&P 500 laggards after the software maker posted lower-than-expected sales and forecast current-quarter results below estimates, due to low demand for storage and security products.
Meanwhile, Dow Chemical declined after the chemical company missed expectations both on the top and bottom lines, citing unrest in the Middle East region. However, CEO Andrew Liveris told CNBC that the company is seeing improved pricing and cash flow this quarter.
(Read more: As US stocks near high, is it time to cherry pick?)
Amazon.com, Microsoft, Western Digital and Zynga are among notable firms slated to post results after the closing bell tonight.
Goldman Sachs edged higher after Deutsche Bank raised its rating on the financial giant to "buy" from "hold."
In Asia, HSBC's flash PMI for China suggested its manufacturing sector increased this month, due to a strong rise in new orders. This was the latest piece of positive data to emerge from the world's second-largest economy, following last week's upbeat third-quarter GDP report. Despite the good news, the Shanghai Composite hit a one-month low, weighed down by fears of a repeat of June's cash crunch.
(Read more: China money market rates spike – don't panic yet)
Meanwhile, Markit's flash PMI for the euro zone indicated that growth in business activity in the region unexpectedly slowed in October, raising questions about the strength of its economic recovery.