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US stocks finish mostly lower; S&P 500 not far from record high

U.S. stocks closed mainly down on Tuesday, with Wall Street pausing after a two-session rise, as data showing the U.S. services industry expanded more-than-expected in October offset softer economic headlines from Europe.

"When the market gets to these levels, near all-time highs, it's almost like the whole market is saying, 'when is the next shoe going to drop,' so I just think it's nervous trade," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.

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After a triple-digit drop, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended slightly lower, losing 20.9 points, or 0.1 percent, to end at 15,618.22, with AT&T fronting blue-chip losses that included 19 of its 30 components.

Just under nine points from its record close set a week ago, The S&P 500 also closed slightly lower, off 4.96 points, or 0.3 percent, at 1,762.97, with telecommunications the top laggard and consumer staples the best performers of its 10 major industry groups. The Nasdaq gained 3.27 points, or 0.1 percent, to 3,939.86.

For every share rising, more than two fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where 742 million shares traded. Composite volume neared 3.5 billion.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), a measure of investor uncertainty, held steady just above 13.

The dollar gained against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners, while the yield on the 10-year Treasury note used to figure mortgage rates and other consumer loans rose 6 basis points to 2.67 percent.

Oil and gold prices also fell, with futures pricing crude at $93.37 a barrel, off $1.25, or 1.3 percent, and gold down $6.60, or 0.5 percent, at $1,308.10 an ounce.

"Today seems to be a day when investors are retrenching, whether it's based on European economic data or that 17 of the last 20 days have been to the upside," said Art Hogan, market strategist at Lazard Capital Markets.

"It's good news but unfortunately one of the last-watched pieces of economic data; ISM is better known for its manufacturing index," said Hogan, of a report from the Institute for Supply Management, with its non-manufacturing index for October rising to 55.4 in October from 54.4 in September.

TD's Ameritrade's Kinahan also pointed to disappointing data from Europe for Wall Street's intitial drop, with the European Union cutting its outlook for euro-area expansion in 2014 and hiking its unemployment estimate as the economy looks to find its footing after recession. "The European economy is softer and their unemployment rate is going to stay fairly high," said Kinahan.

"I think the focus for the week becomes the unemployment number on Friday. It's really a two-month number because the last one was released late," said Kinahan, referring to the government shutdown that temporarily halted the release of government economic reports.

Boston Federal Reserve President Eric Rosengren told CNBC on Tuesday that he wants to see further improvement in the labor market and in economic growth before deciding to reduce the central bank's $85 billion in monthly bond purchases.

AOL was among those reporting quarterly results, with shares of the digital-media company rallying after reporting better-than-expected revenue.

Corporate earnings also included results from CVS Caremark, with the drugstore chain's shares rising after reporting a better-than-expected quarterly profit and raising its outlook for the year. Michael Kors Holdings jumped after the apparel maker reported better-than-anticipated quarterly revenue.

Companies reporting after the bell include 21st Century Fox, Tesla Motors, LiveNation and OpenTable.

—By CNBC's Kate Gibson

Coming Up This Week:

TUESDAY: Earnings from Tesla, LiveNation, OpenTable

WEDNESDAY: Mortgage applications, Challenger job-cut report, leading indicators, oil inventories, Fed's Pianalto speaks, Samsung investors conf.; Earnings from Toyota, Chesapeake Energy, Ralph Lauren, Time Wanre, Qualcomm, Activision Blizzard, CBS, WholeFoods

THURSDAY: GDP, jobless claims, productivity & costs, Fed's Stein speaks, natural gas inventories, consumer credit, chain store sales; Earnings from Beazer, Wendy's, Disney, Priceline.com, Groupon, Nvidia, Annie's

FRIDAY: Nonfarm payrolls, personal income & statement, consumer sentiment, Fed's Williams speaks, McDonald's Oct. sales

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