Target slipped after the retailer warned that first-quarter adjusted profit will come in slightly below Street estimates on weaker-than-expected sales of seasonal and weather-sensitive items.
W.W. Grainger surged to lead the S&P 500 gainers after the industrial supply company topped earnings expectations and raised its 2013 guidance.
Intel, Yahoo, and CSX are among notable companies slated to post results after closing bell. (Read More: Tech Earnings: What to Expect from Yahoo and Intel)
Earnings for the S&P 500 are expected to show the slowest growth in three years, and analysts have wondered if the earnings season would create an excuse for selling.
"In the end, company earnings are canary in the coalmine," said Cavanaugh. "So far, earnings have been good—but if they falter, economic data continues to be negative and the recession in Europe worsens, we could see a pullback."
"The market is ahead of itself and we seem to be whistling past the graveyard when there are serious economic data points that should be raising yellow flags," continued Cavanaugh, pointing to the latest non-farm payrolls data and retail sales report. Still, she said the central banks' continuing monetary stimulus will likely keep the market afloat.
Among techs, Microsoft gained after Morgan Stanley assumed coverage of the tech giant with an "overweight" rating. And Google advanced after Raymond James lifted its price target on the search engine giant to $875 from $825.
Whirlpool climbed after the home appliances manufacturer increased its quarterly divided by 25 percent to 62.5 cents a share from 50 cents a share.
On the economic front, new home sales jumped to their highest level since 2008, according to the Commerce Department. And industrial production rose in March, according to the Federal Reserve, topping expectations.
(Read More: Is Multi-Family Home Construction Overheating?)
Meanwhile, consumer price index slipped in March for the first time in four months as the cost of gasoline declined, giving room for the Federal Reserve to maintain its easy money policy.