Meanwhile, planned layoffs gained for the third-straight month, with employers announcing 57,081 job cuts in November, according to a report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The gain was partly driven month in a row in November, partly driven by the bankruptcy of Hostess Brands.
Investors will be looking ahead to Friday's government jobs report.
European stock markets were higher. The ECB held interest rates at a record low of 0.75 percent, as expected. ECB President Mario Draghi is expected to speak on his economic outlook for 2014 in a news conference.
Apple continued to edge lower, a day after logging its biggest one-day drop in four years. The stock has tumbled more than 20 percent from its all-time high of $705 in September, trading in bear market territory.
Lululemon Athletica slipped after the yoga apparel maker topped earnings expectations, but current-quarter guidance fell short of Wall Street estimates.
Sirius XM Radio announced a $2 billion stock buyback program and declared a special cash dividend of 5 cents a share. So far, more than 150 companies have announced special dividends and accelerated their payouts in the fourth quarter, ahead of next year's possible tax increase on dividends.
Zynga jumped after the social-gaming company filed paperwork for a gaming license in Nevada, the firm's first step toward offering gambling games.
Standard Chartered confirmed that it will probably pay a further $330 million to U.S. authorities over allegations it did not comply with sanctions against trading with Iran. HSBC could be in line for a $1.8 billion fine over money laundering in Mexico,according to Reuters.
Garmin will replace R.R. Donnelley in the S&P 500 after the close of trading next Tuesday. R.R. Donnelley will join the S&P MidCap 400 index.
There will be an Economic Committee hearing on the fiscal cliff, after the announcement that U.S.politicians may have to put off their Christmas leave to hammer out the details of how to resolve the issue. (Read More: Amid 'Fiscal Cliff' Stalemate, Main Street Deteriorates)