Gold shot upabout $20, with the May contract settling at a new Comex closing high of $1,219.90 an ounce. After the Comex closing, the June contract topped $1,230, surpassing the all-time high of $1,226.10.
Gold stocks advanced, including Iamgold and Newmont Mining.
Oil fell slightly, settling at $76.37 a barrel while the dollar roseagainst the euro. In the day's economic news, wholesale inventories rose 0.4 percent in March and wholesale sales jumped 2.4 percent, the biggest gain since November.
Treasurys remained lower after a strong auction of three-year notes. The $38 billion sale fetched a high yield of 1.414% percent and the bid-to-cover ratio was 3.27.
Auctions of 10-year notes and 30-year bonds are expected in the next two days, respectively.
Google shares fell following news that the Android operating system is now the No. 2 most-used smartphone software, displacing Apple, but Sprint said it will no longer sell Google's Nexus One smartphone. Apple shares rose as the company, known for its aggressive public relations, questioned the validity of the statistics from NPD Group.
For the record, the No. 1 maker of smartphone software is Blackberry maker Research In Motion . RIMM shares gained 1.4 percent today.
Intel shares ended lower. The chip giant said it expects annual earnings growth to double over the next few years, bolstered by an expected 15-16 percent expansion in the global personal computer market.
Motorola shares fell as an SEC filing showed investor Carl Icahn has increased his stake in the mobile-phone maker.
Meanwhile, big banks were mostly lower. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan were each down about 1 percent following news that the trading operations at both firms made money every single day of the first quarter— a first for both companies.
Regional banks showed strength, with Regions Financial, Fifth Third and SunTrust all higher.
ButBank of New York Mellon fell nearly 2 percent after New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo sued the bank and two of its former senior officers, claiming that they kept clients uninformed about problems involving Bernard Madoff’s investment firm.
Biotech stocks saw a boost after Gilead Sciences unveiled a large stock-buyback program. Bristol-Myers Squibb and GlaxoSmithKline shares also rose.
Shares of Legg Mason jumped nearly 12 percent to lead the S&P 500. At least two brokerages upgraded the stock after the asset manager reported its fourth straight quarterly profit and announced a restructuring plan.
Priceline tumbled over 12 percent after the travel-booking site reported its earnings more than doubled in the latest quarter but issued a disappointing forecast as global turmoil is threatening the travel industry. Susquehanna Financial raised the firm's price target to $315 from $260 while Bank of America Merrill cut the price target to $270 from $300.
Toyota shares rose nearly 1 percent. The auto maker said it expects a smaller-than-expected profit for the current fiscal year, hurt by aggressive sales incentives, a rising Japanese yen, and Europe's debt problems. Separately, Toyota said it's reviewing NHTSA's investigation into a 2005 recall related to a steering wheel part, and also says it is cooperating with the investigation.
JA Solar rose after the company reported a sharp rise in quarterly profit and raised its outlook on strong demand for solar electricity-generating equipment.
After the bell, reports are due out from Disney and videogame maker Electronic Arts . Brokerage MKM Partners raised EA's stock to "neutral" from "sell."
European shares closed lower, led by banks,in the wake of their massive surge during Monday's session.
Greece is expected to submit its request for the first installment of aid from both the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Those funds will be used to refinance a 10-year bond issue that matures on May 19.
Volume was just slightly above average, not the blockbuster volume we saw last week, with about 1.46 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange. Decliners outpaced advancers, roughly 8 to 5.
Still to Come:
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications; trade balance; weekly crude inventories; 10-year auction; Fed's Bullard speaks; earnings from Macy's
THURSDAY: Ford, Google shareholder meetings; weekly jobless claims; import/export prices; Fed's Kocherlakota speaks; 30-year auction; earnings from Kohl's, Nordstrom, Nvidia
FRIDAY: Government's retail-sales report; industrial production; consumer sentiment; business inventories; earnings from JCPenney
More From CNBC.com: