Goldman Sachs edged higher after the financial giant and Berkshire Hathaway amended the warrants Berkshire holds as part of the lifeline it gave Goldman during the financial crisis.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve ordered Citigroup to improve its anti-money laundering controls, after several units of the bank were subject to similar orders in 2012.
Netflix rallied to lead the S&P 500 gainers after Pacific Crest raised its price target on the movie-streaming company to $225 from $160.
Also among techs, Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster called consensus estimates for Apple's March and June quarters too high, but said new product launches mean investors will look to the second half of the year for opportunity. In addition, Munster said he believes Apple will increase its dividend to around $14 a share from the current $10.60. Still, shares finished in the red. (Read More: Apple Heading to $600: Analyst)
Boeing said the first round test of its new battery system for its 787 Dreamliner went according to plan, putting the jet one step closer to returning to service.
Children's Place slumped after the kids' apparel retailer issued a downbeat earnings outlook for the current quarter and fiscal year.
On the economic front, the S&P/Case Shiller home price 20-city index soared 8.1 percent compared to a year ago, kicking off the year with the biggest year-over-year increase since 2006. But new home sales declined 4.6 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 411,000 units, according to the Commerce Department, missing estimates. Homebuilders were in the red, led by Beazer and DR Horton.
Consumer confidence index dropped in March, according to the Conference Board as Americans turned more pessimistic about economic prospects in the short term.
But durable goods orders climbed in February as demand for transportation equipment rebounded, according to the Commerce Department, topping expectations.
(Read More: American Dream Is Back, So Are Stocks: CNBC Survey)
"It's been a mixed bag and a continuation of what we've seen all along," said Kaufler. "The key takeaway is that the economy is on the mend, but in a very slow way…it's a slow grind."
Treasurys eased their gains after the government auctioned $35 billion in 2-year notes at a high yield of 0.255 percent. The bid-to-cover ratio, an indicator of demand, was 3.27.