Stocks closed narrowly mixed in a volatile session Tuesday, cutting their losses in the final minutes of trading following reports that the Greek conservative leader will deliver a letter of commitment to lenders on Wednesday.
Stocks reacted to several rumors regarding Greece all day. Earlier, stocks were near lows on worries that euro zone finance ministers appeared unlikely to release the Greek bailout funds as hoped.
“[Greece] was the same reason why we were selling off today in the first place,” said Todd Schoenberger, managing director at LandColt Trading. “This goes to show you the power that the Greece news still holds on this market and how it continues to hold us hostage.”
A weaker-than-expected retail sales report also weighed on market sentiment.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average squeezed out a gain of 4.24 points, or 0.03 percent, to end at 12,878.28. H-P led the blue-chip gainers, while BofA and DuPont sagged.
The S&P 500 slipped 1.27 points, or 0.09 percent, to finish at 1,350.50. The Nasdaq eked out a gain of 0.44 points, or 0.02 percent, to close at 2,931.83.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, closed above 19.
Of the 10 S&P sectors, materials slumped, while consumer staples gained.
“We’ve had great gains since the beginning of the year, but things are overdone and we’re having a hard time breaking above the 1,350 level on the S&P,” said Kevin Craney of RJO Futures Brokers. “There are a lot of macro-economic headwinds coming from Europe and the U.S. as well that could give us a bit of a pullback.”
Craney said he expects a 3-5 percent pullback on the S&P in the next month.
“There’s a lot of cash sitting on the sidelines and you haven’t seen that money come back into equities or commodities from a risk standpoint so you’re looking for a little bit of a pullback to commit a little more capital in those and then you’ll see more volume,” he added.
On the economic front, retail sales rose less than expectedin January, according to the Commerce Department.
The government also revised its reading for retail sales in November lower, suggesting that consumers didn't spend as much as previously expected during the holiday season.
Sales of cars and auto parts dropped in addition to shopping at nonstore retailers.