U.S. stocks declined on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 retreating from its record, as news from China hit commodity prices, concern about Ukraine lingered and investors awaited signals on the direction of the economy.
"Equities are in a holding pattern around all-time highs, and are likely to be so for the next couple of weeks as investors wait for some clarity on the economy. We need another round of economic readings to get a better measure on the pace of economic growth," said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
On Monday, stocks fell as a deceleration in China's exports had investors concerned about the global economy.
(Read more: stocks end lower on global-growth concerns.)
"The news out of China is weighing on some of the commodity prices, steel, things like that. There are concerns about how it might impact U.S. corporations, such as Cliffs Natural Resources," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners.
And, a default last on a bond payment by China's Chaori Solar rattled the copper market, leading to three days of heavy selling.
"Investors are also tentative with the market so close to all-time highs," Pavlik added.
General Motors dropped on news that a House committee would probe the response of the auto manufacturer and regulators to complaints about ignition-switch problems that led to at least 13 deaths Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both stumbled as both U.S.-owned mortgage companies would be folded and private interests would be responsible for the first 10 percent of mortgage losses under a bill that the leaders of Senate Banking Committee plans to introduce within days. Shares of American Eagle Outfitters fell after the teen-apparel retailer projected current-quarter earnings below Wall Street estimates, saying the harsh winter had cut into demand; J.C. Penney climbed after Citi upgraded the department-store chain to a "buy" from "neutral."