Stocks ended slightly higher, but remained at about the same place where they started Tuesday as investors held steady under a raft of earnings in anticipation of next week's elections and likely announcement of a new economic stimulus program from the Federal Reserve.
Stocks initially plunged at the open after a handful of weak earnings and a disappointing housing news, but pared its losses following a positive consumer confidence report.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 5.14 points to close at 11,169,46, after ending the previous session at the highest levels since late April.
Bank of America , AmEx and Microsoft were the top gainers on the index, while DuPont and P&G slipped.
The S&P 500 rose 6.44 percent, or 0.3 percent to end at 2497.29 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended up 0.02 points to finish at 1185.64. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded above 20.
"On a macro-level, investors take to the polls and I'm starting to hear a little bit of rumblings that we might be in a situation of 'buy the rumor, sell the news,'" Jud Pyle, market analyst at PEAK6Investments told CNBC.
"We've had a run-up as investors placed bets that the Republicans might be winning here—we might get a selloff a week from Wednesday, but for now, there's been more buying pressure today," Pyle continued. "Maybe we get a little bit of a selloff, but there's a lot of underlying support to the broad market in general."
Materials dragged on the markets, weighed by soft commodity prices and disappointing earnings results from the steel sector.
Steelmakers were lower across the boardafter the world’s largest steelmaker ArcelorMittal as well as Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel warned that demand was slowing, prices were falling and costs were rising. AK Steel also reported weak quarterly results.
Rivals such as world number three Posco and Nucor have already reported lower-than-expected quarterly results, the former cutting its 2010 forecast, the latter warning of uncertainty.
Meanwhile, Ford shares ended higher after the automobile firm posted its sixth straight quarterly profitand the company's best third-quarter performance since at least 1990. The company said its third-quarter net income rose 68 percent.
DuPont finished lower even after the maker of chemicals, building materials and agricultural products posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profitas sales rose in all six business units and across the globe. The Dow component also increased its 2010 earnings forecast above Wall Street's expectations.
Bristol-Myers Squibb posted a slight profit declineas its restrained spending was offset by flat sales of its drugs, lower income from its partners and bigger discounts to government due to the health care overhaul.
And reported an unexpected investment banking loss, sending its U.S.-listed shares down more than 5 percent.
Texas Instruments slipped after the chipmaker said Monday that it expects fourth-quarter revenue to decline from third-quarter levels. In addition, at least three brokerages raised their price targets on the firm.
Coach shares jumped almost 12 percent after the upscale retailer posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit. Other retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Macy's also gained.
And Royal Caribbean Cruises soared nearly 15 percent after the cruise operator posted a better-than-expected profit on stable demand and cost controls and boosted its full-year earnings outlook.
Lexmark International plunged 21 percent after the printer maker missed analyst revenue expectations and posted a tepid revenue forecast.
Broadcom , Dreamworks and Massey Energy and a handful of others are expected to report earnings this afternoon.