Stocks traded flat to mixed ahead of the close as tech stocks lost steam and stocks bumped up against recent highs.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell about 10 points after rising more than 30 points earlier, and edging up to the highest level since June 2008 on Monday.
Among Dow components, Alcoa , Intel and Cisco gained, while Boeing and Caterpillar slipped.
The S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq also both traded flat after rising moderately. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, fell to just above 17.
Among key S&P 500 sectors, materials, energy gained, while health care and industrials fell.
Minutes from the Federal Reserve's last policy setting meetingindicated Fed officials had differing views over how long the Fed should maintain an easy monetary policy.
Some economists and strategists believe it's time for the Fed to put the brakes on its monetary stimulus program, or to even raise interest rates, because the economy is growing. Doug Cote, chief market strategist at ING Investment Management, said the economy is expanding, but, he says, "we think the Fed is OK in taking the go-slow approach, because there is so much slack in the economy."
That slack, including high unemployment, means wages are unlikely to go up, "so the Fed is safe in keeping rates low," Cote said.
Still, he expects the Fed's hand will be forced to raise rates in the second half in the wake of rate hikes in Europe and China. Still, Cote said stock will continue to rise.
"We’re in an expanding economy driven by accelerating corporate profits, booming manufacturing, a resurgent consumer and growth from emerging markets," he said. "Because of that, we see equity markets continuing to go higher and they have compelling value right now."
M&A activity drove much of the market action on Tuesday, after Texas Instruments$6.5 billion cash bid for National Semiconductor appeared to lift tech stocks across the board. National Semiconductor shares soared more than 70 percent, as several brokerages raised their ratings and price targets on the stock. Meanwhile, Citigroup raised its price target on Texas Instruments to $42 a share from $39.
"We’ve been watching a lot of the tech stocks, they are obviously acting pretty well," said Peter Costa, president, Empire Executions, who said he was invested in both companies.
Otherwise, Costa added, the market has been making incremental moves amid "anemic" volume. "It's trying to find a direction and it hasn’t found it yet," Costa said.
Shares of most rival semiconductor firms gained amid speculation about further consolidation in the sector. The iShares PHLX SOX Semiconductor Sector Index Fund jumped. ON Semiconductor , Micrel and NetLogic Microsystems all advanced.