Trading was thin ahead of the three-day Easter weekend. U.S. markets will be closed Friday for Good Friday.
Comcast edged higher after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the cable company in an antitrust case over how much the company charged subscribers. (Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal.)
Wal-Mart said that probes into alleged foreign bribery at its stores are likely to result in a financial loss. Separately, the retailer said it would start using stores to get Internet orders to shoppers faster, amid growing competition from online rivals such as Amazon.com.
Boeing edged lower as its 787 Dreamliners face a temporary ban on some of the transocean flights, which would be a costly new challenge for the company.
Cliffs Natural Resources plunged to lead the S&P 500 laggards after Morgan Stanley downgraded the iron ore and metallurgical coal producer to "underweight" from "equal-weight." Rivals Alpha Natural Resources and Peabody Energy also traded lower.
Mattress Firm soared nearly 12 percent after the mattress maker provided solid guidance for fiscal 2013. In addition, Raymond James upgraded the company to "outperform" from "market perform." Other mattress companies bounced higher, including Tempur-Pedic and Select Comfort.
Weekly mortgage applications rebounded last week as interest rates pulled back for the first time in three weeks, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Paychex and Red Hat are among notable companies scheduled to report earnings after the closing bell.
On the economic front, pending home sales slid in February, according to the National Association of Realtors.
(Read More: Housing Headwinds Still Exist: Shiller)
Earlier, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren supported the central bank's asset purchase program, saying it is having the desired impact of speeding up the pace of the recovery and should be continued through the end of the year. Meanwhile, Cleveland Fed President Sandra Pianalto said the Federal Reserve should consider tapering off the pace of its bond-buying stimulus plan if the U.S. economy continues to show signs of improvement.
And Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota said the Fed should ease monetary policy further to bring the unemployment rate down at a faster rate. Kocherlakota expects the jobless rate to be close to 7 percent by the end of 2014, and forecasts growth around 2.5 percent this year and 3 percent next year.
Treasury prices held their gains after the government auctioned $35 billion in 5-year notes at a high yield of 0.760 percent. The bid-to-cover ratio, an indicator of demand, was 2.73.
(Read More: Global 'Triple-A Ratings Club' Shrinks 60 Percent)