Stocks cut losses to close mixed on Thursday as geopolitical tensions lingered ahead of consumer data.
"I think tomorrow will be focused on economic data unless something happens overnight," Mark Luschini, chief investment officer at Janney Montgomery Scott, said.
Boosted by low oil prices, transports also gained and helped stocks turn positive.
"The transports are leading the market higher and utilities as well," Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital, said. "The market—although it's going through some sort of technical adjustments—is still showing a lot of strength."
"With oil prices coming down, obviously transports are favored," he said.
Earlier, stocks had fallen with a slide in oil prices, but later shaved those losses with a slight rebound in oil. Brent rose slightly from its 17-month low of below $98 a barrel, while U.S. crude gained to trade above $92 a barrel. In late morning trade, energy was still among the hardest hit sectors on the S&P 500, which was down for the sixth time in eight sessions. Natural gas inventories rose more than expected.
"On the whole we continue to be in a 'hand-and-glove' relationship with commodities," Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities, said. "If we can get any resolution in any of the geopolitical stories, then this market will find a focus to the upside."
Investors kept an eye on the world economy with Thursday's reports that the United States and its European Union allies would increase their sanctions against Russia and President Barack Obama's announcement on Wednesday evening of new plans to fight Islamic State militants.
"The weakness that we're seeing in biotechs is because they've had a pretty strong run," Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Key Private Bank, said. "The stocks have gotten vulnerable."
"Tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat," Obama said on Wednesday evening.
The news came amid heightened nerves over terrorism in the U.S. on the 13-year anniversary of 9/11.