Stocks ended narrowly mixed in a lackluster session Wednesday following a weaker-than-expected existing home sales report and as investors were reluctant to jump in following the recent market rally.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 45.57 points, or 0.35 percent, to close at 13,124.62, led by H-P and Alcoa .
The S&P 500 declined 2.63 points, or 0.19 percent, to end at 1,402.89. The Nasdaq added 1.17 points, or 0.04 percent, to finish at 3,075.32, earlier reaching a new 11-year high.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, closed near 15.
Among the key S&P sectors, energy was the biggest laggard, while telecoms ended higher.
“There are not a lot of real tells going on today,” said Tom Donino, co-head of equity trading at First New York Securities. “The market’s a little overbought and overextended in the short-term and seems to be in need of a correction, which will be healthy.”
On the economic front, existing home sales posted a surprising declineof 0.9 percent in February, according to the National Association of Realtors. In addition, supply of properties on the market gained, further pointing to ongoing worries for the housing recovery.
“[Today’s data] was a little on the weaker side, but home sales should get better during the strong spring selling season at an accelerated pace,” said Donino.
Oracle erased their gains throughout the session to finish lower even after the tech company beat earnings estimates.
Also on the earnings front, General Mills edged lower after the cereal maker posted earnings that met estimates and reaffirmed its lowered full-year forecastamid elevated prices for raw materials.
Discover Financial is slated to post earnings after-the-bell tonight.
Hewlett-Packard announced it would merge its PC and printing groupsin a move that was widely expected. H-P is scheduled to host its annual shareholders meeting later today.
Zynga rallied after news the social network game developer will acquire smaller rival OMGPOP.
Among financials, Guggenheim raised its price target on a handful of banks including Bank of America,JPMorgan , Wells Fargo and Capital One . But the sector was largely mixed.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters soared after the coffee maker said it is expanding its deal with Starbucks , offering Starbucks-branded coffee on its new line of brewers. Earlier this month, Green Mountain shares had tumbled after Starbucks
Dow component Merck ended flat after an FDA panel rejected the phrama giant's proposed cancer drug for sarcoma patients. Merck's partner Ariad Pharmaceuticals was higher.
Also among pharmaceuticals, Watson jumped to lead the S&P 500 gainers after a report the company is close to acquiring Swiss-based Actavis for around $7 billion.
Meanwhile, Teva Pharmaceutical said it plans to move its U.S.-listed shares to the NYSE from the Nasdaq. The generic drugmaker will keep its current stock symbol “TEVA.”
Crude prices jumped to settle above $107 a barrel, a day after oil's worst one-day decline in three months. Meanwhile, gold rallied above $1,650 an ounce.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke weighed in on Europe, testifying before the House Oversight Committee on the region's debt crisis, saying that the central bank would act as neededif conditions worsened.
Weekly mortgage applications declined last week, due to a drop in refinancing demand as rates jumped, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
—Follow JeeYeon Park on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC—
Coming Up This Week:
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, FHFA home price index, leading indicators, Green Mountain Coffee shareholders mtg; Earnings from FedEx, Dollar General, Gamestop, Lululemon, Nike, Accenture
FRIDAY: New home sales, Fed's Lockhart speaks, Fed's Bullard speaks; Earnings from Darden Restaurants
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