U.S. stocks seesawed Tuesday and the Dow slipped for a fourth day as the major averages struggled to bounce back from a bout of heavy selling.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 84.96 points to 32,160.74, or 0.26%. The S&P 500 inched 0.25% higher to 4,001.05, and the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.98% to close at 11,737.67.
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The market struggled to choose a direction on Tuesday in an erratic trading session that saw the major averages waver between gains and losses. At one point, the Dow rose more than 500 points but later stooped to a session low of roughly 350 points.
"We're in a market where you just can't hold on to any rallies," Paul Hickey of Bespoke Investment Group told CNBC's "TechCheck" on Tuesday. "It's not surprising given the overall trends we've seen over the last several days and I think we're just going to see more of this going forward."
Beaten-up technology stocks led Tuesday's gains. Microsoft and Apple gained more than 1%, and Intel and Salesforce added more than 2%. The sector has suffered some of the biggest losses in recent weeks as investors moved out of growth areas and into safe havens like consumer staples and utilities amid recessionary fears.
Meanwhile, IBM slipped nearly 4%. Home Depot, 3M and JPMorgan Chase each slid about 2%, dragging the 30-stock Dow into the red.
"Up to now this weakness has been driven by growth, tech and cyclicals and although we expect further weakness and indeed underperformance here, we are now also seeing concerning signs that the value space may be close to establishing an important top in absolute terms, whilst some key defensive sectors are also threatening tops," wrote Credit Suisse's David Sneddon.
Amid the sell-off, investors continued to look for signs of a bottom.
"We've checked a lot of the boxes that you'd want to check along the way to a correction," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities. "Once you get to the household names, the leaders, the generals, you tend to be at the later phases of that corrective process."
Some, including hedge-fund manager David Tepper, think the sell-off is nearing an end. Tepper told CNBC's Jim Cramer on Tuesday that he expects the Nasdaq to hold at the 12,000 level.
Treasury yields eased from multiyear highs and the benchmark 10-year Treasury note yield traded below 3% after hitting its highest level since late 2018 on Monday.
Much of the recent market moves have been driven by the Federal Reserve and how aggressively it will act to curb rising inflation. Alongside, investors continued to monitor the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and lockdowns in China.
"Without something giving people a sense that one of those pressures is going to ease, I think we have a market that feels largely directionless," said Tim Lesko of Mariner Wealth Advisors.
Tuesday's moves came after the S&P 500 dropped below the 4,000 level to a low of 3,975.48 on Monday. It marked the index's weakest point since March 2021. The broad market index dropped about 17% from its 52-week high as Wall Street struggled to recover from last week's losses.
On the earnings front, Peloton Interactive plummeted 8.7% after reporting a wider-than-expected loss in the recent quarter. AMC's stock dropped 5.4% on the back of recent quarterly earnings.
Investors are looking ahead to April CPI data on Wednesday which is expected to come in slightly below March's 8.5% and could signal that inflation has reached a peak.