Stocks struggled to hold gains for any length of time Tuesday as investors took a breather after Monday's rally.
Bank of America advanced after some reassuring words from embattled CEO Ken Lewis.
But financials struggled after MBIA reported another hefty loss — this one clocked in at $727.8 million, or $3.50 a share — amid mounting writedowns.
Techs showed some strength as chips advanced and Priceline shot up more than 10 percent after the travel-booking Web site crushed earnings expectations due to an "exceptionally strong" summer-travel season.
And retail stocks continued to shine as investors are increasingly making bets on consumer-discretionary spending.
Today's choppy session came after the Dow chalked up its second 200-plus gain in three sessions on Monday. All three major indexes gained 2 percent or more yesterday and the Dow's close was its highest since Oct. 3, 2008.
There are no major releases on the calendar for a second consecutive day, a streak that will be continued Wednesday as many offices and the bond market will be closed in observance of the Veterans' Day holiday.
Filling the void, we've got a parade of Fed speakers today: Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen, Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo and Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher.
Lockhart and Yellen warned that unemployment likely will remain high for the next several yearsbecause the economic recovery won't be strong enough to spur robust hiring. These were the first public remarks from Fed officials since the government last week reported that the unemployment rate surged to 10.2 percent in October, the highest since the mid-1980s.