Stocks closed modestly higher on Tuesday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average stretched its winning streak to eight straight sessions, its longest winning streak since March, 2003.
If the Dow ends higher on Wednesday, it will be the longest winning streak for the benchmark index since 1996.
Still, caution ahead of the beginning of earnings season kept many investors on the sidelines.
"The market is looking for a direction," Rob Brown, chief investment officer at Genworth Financial Asset Management, told CNBC.com. "To some extent, we're on hold waiting for earnings data or something else to arrive. When you tear it apart, there is breadth of strength that spans across almost sectors."
After the bell, aluminum producer Alcoa reported higher-than-expected first-quarter profit, pleasing investors who bid the company's stock up in after-hours trading. Wall Street is looking for results from the Dow component to not only gauge the pace of earnings for the quarter but as a proxy for the health of the overall economy.
Breadth was positive with advancing shares outpacing decliners by more than three to two on the NYSE. Nine out of 10 sectors in the S&P 500 closed higher, led by energy, with modest gains also seen for the utilities and financial sectors.
A pullback in recent declines for crude oil, in addition to rising natural gas prices, lifted the energy sector. New York light sweet crude futures edged up just below $62 a barrel, rebounding from six days of straight losses, although trading volume was relatively light.
Citigroup may announce up to 45,000 job cuts over three years, CNBC's Charlie Gasparino reported. CEO Charles Prince is expected to announce the restructuring plan tomorrow.
Seagate Technology shares fell sharply on after the computer hard drive maker said third-quarter sales are likely to come in below previous expectations.
Elsewhere in the tech sector, shares of Applied Materials rose after Bank of America Securities upgraded the stock to "buy" from "neutral," citing the chip equipment maker's move into the solar power equipment business.
D.R. Horton fell after the company said fiscal second-quarter orders fell 41% as the home builder continues to struggle in a depressed housing market. The company reported orders of $2.6 billion for the quarter and took orders for 9,983 homes, down 37% from a year earlier.
Dow Chemical told CNBC it was not interested in being acquired. CEO Andrew Liveris, in an appearance on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street," denied a UK tabloid's report of a potential $50 million buyout offer by a consortium of investors including private equity firm KKR.
Treasury prices rose, sending yields lower.
Europe Closes Higher, Asia Ends Mixed
European shares closed higher on Tuesday following the Easter break as the London FTSE-100 and France's CAC-40 both finished modestly positive, while the Frankfurt DAX continued to make new multiyear highs, closing up almost 1%.
French luxury goods retail group PPR is reportedly eyeing German sportswear company Puma.
In other deal news, private equity group CVC Capital Partners raised its bid for U.K. supermarket chain J. Sainsbury by 3.6% to 582 pence a share, but the Sainsbury family said it will not consider an offer bellow 600 pence, the Financial Times said.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average slipped from a six-week closing high set the previous session, as the yen's recovery against the greenback encouraged investors to book profits on exporters such as TDK.
South Korea's Kospi Index finished lower, erasing gains after earlier edging up to their fifth consecutive record, as LG.Philips LCD and other blue chips reporting earnings results this week fell.
Hong Kong stocks rose on overseas gains and as the H-share index rose near the psychologically important 10,000 level. Sinopec led the advancers, after it flagged a strong 2007 first quarter, saying it expected January-March net profit to rise more than half.