Stocks came off their worst levels in a volatile session Thursday, but still closed mixed as investors remained cautious following JPMorgan earnings and a tepid Chinese economic report.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 40.72 points, or 0.35 percent, to finish at 11,478.13. BofA and JPMorgan led the blue-chip laggards, while Intel gained.
The S&P 500 slipped 3.59 points, or 0.30 percent, to end at 1,203.66, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 15.51 points, or 0.60 percent, to close at 2,620.24.
Despite the day's decline, the major averages remain on pace for their best weekly gains in four weeks.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, finished below 31.
Among the key S&P sectors, financials lagged, while techs were higher.
"You’re not going to see stocks break out until you see some hard news that’s beyond sentiment," Michael Yoshikami of YCMNET Advisors told CNBC. "The Fed is out there possibly pondering doing something and another thing to watch for is earnings...You’re going to see earnings be fairly positive as oil prices having been down a bit as well as unemployment so high."
However, earnings season got off to a weaker start than expected. JPMorgan slipped after the banking giant reported lower net income, as the European debt crisis set back corporate dealmaking. Other major U.S. banks fell following the news, including Citigroup and Morgan Stanley .
Meanwhile, Chinese trade data was weaker than expected, with the trade surplus narrowing for the second consecutive month, reigniting worries about the global economy.
In Europe, Slovakia's parliament ratified a plan to bolster the euro zone's EFSF rescue fund, completing the approval process as the last member of the common currency area.