Stocks closed mostly unchanged in another lackluster session Tuesday, following a pair of mixed economic reports and ahead of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech later this week.
“We have a market that’s in ‘hurry up and wait’ mode to see what Bernanke says,” said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer’s Investment Research. “We could be in for a couple more boring days before Friday.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 21.68 points, or 0.17 percent, to close at 13,102.99, led by H-P , which finished at a multi-year low. The stock has plunged more than 30 percent year-to-date and is the worst performer on the blue-chip index.
The S&P 500 erased 1.14 points, or 0.08 percent, to finish at 1,409.30. The Nasdaq eked out a gain of 3.95 points, or 0.13 percent, to end at 3,077.14.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, closed above 16.
Despite the lackluster trading session, all three major indexes are poised to log their first August gains since 2009.
Among the key S&P sectors, telecoms led the laggards, while energy squeezed out a small gain.
Interestingly, the Dow traded in an almost identical intraday pattern over the last two sessions.
Trading volume remained paper thin, with the consolidated tape of the NYSE at 2.5 billion shares, while only 517 million shares changed hands on the floor.
Trading is expected to remain muted throughout the week amid the summer holiday season and ahead of the Fed's Jackson Hole Symposium.
Chairman Ben Bernanke is expected to speak later this week at the Fed's annual symposium in Wyoming and investors will be listening closely for hints of further easing. However, some economists doubt the speech will reveal any new details of policy plans. (Confronting the Crisis: Tune in all day Thursday and Friday to CNBC for coverage on the Fed at Jackson Hole. )
“Expectations are reasonably low but it could be a bit of a surprise,” said Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS Financial Services. (Read More: What Market Pros Really Think Bernanke Will Say)
Meanwhile, ECB President Mario Draghi said he will not be present at the Jackson Hole meeting due to a "very heavy workload." ECB policymakers have been working on a new bond-buying program to tackle the region's ongoing sovereign debt crisis ahead of a critical meeting on September 6.
“[Draghi] couldn’t give a forceful speech to upstage Bernanke, and he couldn’t give a bland speech because everyone was waiting to hear what are the details to ‘I’ll do anything’… So the wisest thing was to withdraw and that’s what he’s done,” said Cashin.
Gilead Sciences edged higher after the FDA approved the biotechnology company's four-drug combination treatment for HIV. The drug will be sold under the name Stribild.
Apple was slightly lower a day after the tech giant closed at an all-time in the previous session. (Read More: Samsung Vows to Push Back Against Apple)
Yahoo named former market executive at Amazon.com and American Eagle Outfitters Kathy Savitt as the Internet company's new chief marketing officer in the latest move by new CEO Marissa Mayer to beef up her executive team.
Yelp declined a day ahead of the user-review website's 180-day lock-up expiration where nearly 53 million shares will be freed up.
Lexmark surged to lead the S&P 500 gainers after the printer maker said it is slashing nearly 13 percent of its workforce and will exit the inkjet printer business in an effort to cut costs. Rival Xerox also edged higher.
On the economic front, home prices rose in June for the fifth month in a row, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index. But consumer confidence unexpectedly fell in August to its lowest level since last November, according to the Conference Board, hitting its lowest since last November.
European stocks ended lower amid worries about slowing growth after Spain's economy unexpectedly contracted further in the second quarter.
Oil prices bounced higheras once-Tropical Storm Isaac was upgraded to a hurricane and was expected to make landfall in the New Orleans area almost exactly seven years after the region was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. (Read More: Hurricane Isaac Not Hitting Stocks—Yet)
Treasury prices held their gainsafter the government auctioned $35 billion in 2-year notes at high yield of 0.273 and a bid-to-cover of 3.94.
—By CNBC’s JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
Coming Up This Week:
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage apps, GDP, corporate profits, pending home sales, oil inventories, 5-yr note auction, Beige Book; Earnings from Heinz, Pandora, TiVo
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, personal income & spending, 7-yr note auction, chain-store sales; Earnings from Zumiez
FRIDAY: Chicago PMI, consumer sentiment, factory orders, farm prices, Bernanke's Jackson Hole speech
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