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.
Meanwhile, Rating agency Moody's warned it may cut the triple-A ratings of France, the United Kingdom and Austria, while it downgraded the ratingsof Italy, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta.
The ratings agency's move came a day after Greece's lawmakers approved a new round of austerity measures aimed at securing a bailout package. Euro zone finance ministers are likely to talk by phone rather than meet to discuss financial aid for Greece because the paperwork required is incomplete, according to sources.
Meanwhile, Germany's investor and analyst sentiment jumped to its highest since April 2011.
Bank of America fell after Citi cut its rating on the financial giant to "neutral" from "buy," citing ongoing earnings headwindsfor the firm. Still, Citi raised its price target on BofA to $8.5 from $8.
Meanwhile, Boeing gained after the Dow component said it signed a deal worth $22.4 billion, its largest commercial airplane order ever, with Indonesia's Lion Air.
On the tech front, Yahoo tumbled after reports Alibaba and Softbank have called off talksover sales of the search-engine company's Asian assets.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple's upcoming iPad 3 will use the 4G networks of both Verizon and AT&T . The news comes after the iPad maker hit a major milestone, closing above $500 a share for the first time in the previous session.
Meanwhile, U.S. and European regulators approved Google's $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility , but warned they would closely monitor the Internet giant to ensure patents critical to the telecommunications industry would be licensed at fair prices.
Michael Kors surged after the luxury retailer posted strong earnings, thanks to rising demand.
Metlife and Zynga scheduled to post earnings after-the-bell tonight.
Also on the economic front, import prices rose 0.3 percent in January, according to the Labor Department as petroleum and food rebounded strongly. And business inventories rose 0.4 percentto $1.56 trillion in December, according to the Commerce Department.
—Follow JeeYeon Park on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC—
Coming Up This Week:
WEDNESDAY: MBA mortgage applications, Empire state mfg survey, treasury international capital, industrial production, Fed's Fisher speaks, housing market index, oil inventories, FOMC minutes, credit card default rates reported; Earnings from Comcast, Abercrombie & Fitch, Deere, CBS, Netapp, Nvidia
THURSDAY: Housing starts, jobless claims, PPI, Bernanke speaks at FDIC hearing, Philadelphia Fed survey; earnings from GM, Applied Materials, Baidu, Nordstrom
FRIDAY: CPI, leading indicators; Earnings from Campbell Soup, Heinz
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