Stocks came off their best levels but still logged a a gain in thin, choppy session Tuesday following reports that Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti will meet Italy's President to form the nation's next new government and after a handful of better-than-expected economic reports.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average squeezed out a gain of 17.18 points, or 0.14 percent, to close at 12,096.16, led by Hewlett-Packard and Intel .
The S&P 500 gained 6.03 points, or 0.48 percent, to end at 1,257.81. The Nasdaq rallied 28.98 points, or 1.09 percent, to finish at 2,686.20.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, finished below 31.
Most S&P sectors ended in the black, led by techs, while energy finished slightly lower.
“Market in doldrums is a relief, but it’s driven by a lack of headlines,” said Brian Battle, director and vice president of trading at Performance Trust Capital Partners. “It looks like there’s more risk to the downside in the short-term.”
Stocks closed mostly lower in Europe, adding to the previous session's decline, as investors continued to worry about the southern European countries' ability to tackle their sovereign debt problems and prevent their borrowing costs from rising.
New Italian Prime Minister-designate Mario Monti has completed the process of forming a government in less than three days as the debt-ridden nation races to protect itself from a major financial and political crisis that has boosted its borrowing costs to alarming levels.
Monti is expected to announce a cabinet composed mainly of technocrats.