U.S. stocks were mixed on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 crossing 1,900 for the first time, as disappointing April retail sales were offset by an upward revision for the prior month and an upbeat gauge of small business sentiment.
"We had soft numbers on retail but positive on small business sentiment, so they cancelled each other out," said Randy Frederick, managing director of active trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab.
"We're winding down out of earnings season, and there's not a whole lot going on, but when you're in a bull market, and we are, a lack of bad news causes us to drift higher," Frederick added.
Tuesday's tentative moves came a day after two benchmark indexes finished at all-time highs, with one strategist saying the climb into uncharted territory likely lured buyers into the market.
"We're playing catch-up, retail investors heard an all-time high was reached, and the non-participant response is to always want to get in the market after it's gone up. That could be a reason for today's modest upswing," Kim Forrest, senior equity analyst at Fort Pitt Capital in Pittsburgh, said of initial gains that eased as the session progressed.
Whirlpool fell after Longbow Research downgraded the appliance maker to neutral from buy. Keurig Green Mountain rallied after Coca-Cola increased its stake in the company, making it the largest shareholder.
After rising to an intraday record of 16,735.51, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.1 percent, with Microsoft leading gains that included 18 of 30 components. Microsoft on Tuesday cut the cost of its Xbox One gaming console by $100, matching Sony's Playstation 4 after about six months on the market.
The held little changed after rising to 1,902.18, an intraday record and its first time above 1,900. Energy led sector gains and telecommunications performed the most poorly among its 10 major industry groups.
The Nasdaq erased initial gains, closing down 0.3 percent.
The Russell 2000 also declined, with the index of small cap companies down 3.6 percent for the year.
"The Russell has under performed; that's where I'm looking for value and that's where I'm finding it," said Forrest, who added that she is also looking for, and finding, stocks to buy in the consumer discretionary sector, down 3.8 percent for the year.
For every seven shares rising, more than eight fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where 384 million shares traded as of 3:10 p.m. Eastern. Composite volume surpassed 2.1 billion.
The price of U.S. Treasuries rose along with equities, pushing the 10-year yield used in figuring mortgage rates and other consumer loans down 5 basis points to 2.614 percent.
The flow of money into the perceived safety of the bond market is "proof that the institutional money managers and professionals are looking at the data and scratching their heads, are we in the 3 to 3.5 percent growth economy or are we back in the 2 to 2.5 percent economy?" asked Forrest, who believes the latter.
Retail sales rose 0.1 percent in April, after a revised 1.5 percent jump in March, the Commerce Department reported. Expectations called for 0.4 percent growth in April.
"I'm not surprised there; the worst performing sector is the consumer," said Nick Raich, CEO at the Earnings Scout, referring to the sole sector out of 10 among the SS&P 500's major industry groups still in the red, year to date.
"Lower yields are bullish for profit margins, and eventually that should trickle to the consumer," added Raich.
The dollar gained against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners, while dollar-denominated commodities were mixed, with gold futures falling $1.00, or 0.1 percent, to $1,294.80 an ounce and crude futures rising $1.11, or 1.1 percent, to $101.70 a barrel.
Earlier Tuesday, the National Federation of Independent Business reported that small business sentiment hit its highest levels in 6-1/2 years in April, with seven of 10 index components advancing.
The sentiment gauge "showed improvement back to pre-recession levels," said Raich, who noted that the current earnings season yielded a "resumption of positive improvement with earnings expectations, not just for the small companies, but big companies, or S&P 500 companies, which suggest earnings growth will re-accelerate in the second quarter."
Another report had business inventories rising 0.4 percent in March, in line with estimates.
On Monday, stocks rose, lifting the S&P 500 and the Dow to record finishes, as technology shares surged and M&A activity helped brighten Wall Street's view of the economy.
—By CNBC's Kate Gibson
Coming Up This Week:
8:30 a.m.: PPI
8:30 a.m.: Weekly jobless claims
8:30 a.m.: CPI
8:30 a.m.: Empire State survey
9:00 a.m.: TIC data
9:14 a.m.: Industrial production
10:00 a.m.: Philadelphia Fed survey
10:00 a.m.: NAHB survey
6:10 p.m.: Fed Chair Janet Yellen at US Chamber of Commerce on small business
8:30 a.m.: Housing starts
9:55 a.m.: Consumer sentiment
11:50 a.m.: St. Louis Fed President James Bullard
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