U.S. stocks wavered on Wednesday, largely erasing a retreat from records, as investors mulled the slowdown in Europe's economy and earnings from Macy's and other retailers.
"A time out is probably well needed, a straight line up is not the healthiest thing," said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at the Lindsey Group.
Utilities were hardest hit among the S&P 500's 10 major sectors after the United States and China reached an accord on carbon reductions to curb climate change, with Public Service Enterprise Group and Exelon among the top decliners. Macy's gained after the department-store chain posted third-quarter earnings that beat estimates, while its revenue missed. The company also cut is full-year guidance.
Wednesday data had wholesale inventories in September, versus expectations for a 0.2 percent gain.
Benchmark indexes moderated losses to turn little changed, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average initially shedding 78 points, and ending down 2.70 points at 17,612.20, with JPMorgan Chase and Exxon Mobil leading blue-chip losses and Visa and Nike fronting gains.
The shed 1.43 point, or nearly 0.1 percent, at 2,038.25, with utilities and energy leading sector losses and telecommunications and consumer discretionary the best performing of its 10 major sectors.
The Nasdaq added 14.58 points, or 0.3 percent, at 4,675.13.
For every seven shares falling, just over eight gained on the New York Stock Exchange, where 718 million shares traded. Composite volume approached 3.3 billion.
U.S. stocks started the session in the red, echoing action in Europe, where shares closed sharply lower.
"We're probably playing off Europe; the European economic weakness is a focus, and we're seeing weakness in the European banks and stock markets," said Boockvar.
The dollar turned up against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note used to figure mortgage rates and other consumer loans held steady at 2.3643 percent.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi "is helping the dollar and dollar-denominated securities by pledging to keep pushing their rates down to a level that stimulates the economies of the euro zone. This should also help feed interest into the Treasury auctions as the yield 'separation' between U.S. debt and euro-zone debt can't be ignored by global investors," Kevin Giddis, head of fixed income capital markets at Raymond James, wrote in an emailed note.
On Tuesday, U.S. stocks were little changed as investors found little impetus to move decisively in one direction or the other.
Coming Up This Week:
8:30 a.m.: Jobless claims
10:00 a.m.: JOLTs
11:00 a.m.: Oil inventories
12:30 p.m.: Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser
12:45 p.m.: Fed Chair Janet Yellen welcoming remarks at Fed/ECB conference
1:00 p.m.: $16 billion 30-year bond auction
2:00 p.m.: Treasury budget
3:30 p.m.: Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota
4:30 p.m.: Fed balance sheet
8:30 a.m.: Retail sales
8:30 a.m.: Import and export prices
9:10 a.m.: St. Louis Fed President James Bullard
9:55 a.m.: Consumer sentiment
10:00 a.m.: Business inventories
10:30 a.m.: Natural-gas inventories
4:00 p.m.: Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer on panel
4:00 p.m.: Fed Gov. Jerome Powell on panel