U.S. stocks closed mixed Tuesday, attempting to stabilize after a sharp sell-off, as commodities recovered slightly but biotech stocks failed to hold gains. ( Tweet This )
The Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 ended higher, while the Nasdaq closed lower. The Dow managed to end above the psychologically key 16,000 level, while the S&P 500 remained below 1,900 after closing below that level Monday.
The major averages fluctuated between gains and losses throughout the day.
"People are waiting, or wanting, to see if we can retest the August lows before they step back in," said Peter Coleman, head of trading at Convergex. "There's no catalyst to get this market going forward. We're into a downtrend until we get some clear feedback— where the Fed's going? Can oil bottom? (Until) the 10-year can get to 2.30, 2.50, it indicates a ton of fear in the market."
The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB) gave back about 4 percent in intraday gains to close 0.4 percent lower, extending Monday's 6.3 percent plunge.
The Nasdaq composite closed down about 0.6 percent, weighed by declines in IBB and a 3 percent loss in Apple. In choppy intraday trade, the index both gained and lost more than 1 percent.
The Dow closed 47 points higher, recovering from a mild decline after earlier gaining as much as 117 points. 3M and Johnson & Johnson contributed the most to gains in the blue chip index, while Apple was the greatest weight.
"Obviously it's a market trying to gain some semblance of a bounce. This remains a very frustrated market," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial.
"There doesn't seem to be much conviction. The good thing is you don't see much conviction on the downside either," she said. "To have a kind of quiet market is more comforting for the average investor."