Stocks turned mixed as oil prices steadied, and as the S&P 500 marked the beginning of a two-year bull market.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average struggled for direction throughout the session, and was up more than 30 points by noon. The blue-chip index rose sharply on Tuesday.
Among Dow components, IBM and Merck rose, while DuPontand Chevronfell.
The S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq declined. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, rose to nearly 20.
Among key S&P 500 sectors, materials and energy fell, while utilities and telecom rose.
Stocks appeared to be tracking oil prices, holding steady after OPEC said it saw no reason to hold an emergency meeting to discuss raising output, but rising after oil prices rose after a report that black smoke was rising from an oil terminalin Libya.
London Brent crude rose more than 2 percent, above $115 a barrel, while U.S. light sweet crude rose slightly, above $105. Gold rose above $1,434, falling from the previous day's record high.
Crude oil inventories in the U.S. rose 2.5 million barrels, more than expected, while gasoline inventories fell by 5.5 million barrels, more than expected, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday.
"Everything is about oil, it really comes down to that," says Randy Frederick, director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab.
The VIX is a good barometer of the market's unease as it has moved from trading around 15 or 16 to a new "comfort zone" of 19 or 20, Frederick said.
"What (the VIX) is telling us now is there is a higher level of anxiety or uncertainty in the market now than there was," he said. But, he added, "that's not a bad thing for a market that's been going straight up for six months.