Investors will also be awaiting the results of the Federal Reserve's two-day policy-setting meeting,that starts Tuesday and ends with a much-anticipated statement at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday.
Many economists expect the Fed will announce plans to buy Treasury securities to stimulate the economy, although views differ on the scale and timing of the purchases.
Corporations continued to report third-quarter earnings on Tuesday.
Pfizer , like other drugmakers, reported strong profits, thanks to cost-cutting, but weak sales, sending its shares slightly lower. In Pfizer's case, sales were hurt by generic competition for Lipitor, its cholesterol drug, and weak sales in emerging markets.
MasterCard's shares rose after the credit-card issuer reported a 15 percent gain in third-quarter profits thanks to strong international spending.
Archer Daniel Midland's shares sank after the agricultural processing company reported inventory charges hurt third-quarter earnings.
Shares of cereal maker Kellogg fell slightly after reporting lower earnings and sales, due in part to product recall and weak sales.
BPlifted its estimate of the likely costof its Gulf of Mexico oil spill by $7.7 billion to $39.9 billion. This pushed its profits down sharply in spite of higher oil and gas prices.
The oil company said delays in capping its blown-out well prompted the increased charge for ending the leak, cleaning up the damage and compensating those affected.
Toyota said that its sales in China fell 6 percent in October to 61,600 vehicles, marking the first year-on-year decline in 18 months.
JPMorgan was slightly lower a day after news the bank was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commissionfor a collateralized debt obligation transaction with Magnetar Capital, a hedge fund. JPMorgan said to CNBC, "We, like other firms, have received an inquiry from the SEC related to our collateralized debt obligation business. We are cooperating fully with the inquiry."
In tech news, Art Technology Group's shares skyrocketed more than 40 percent after Oracle said it will buy the company for $1 billion to boost its e-commerce software applications. The offering price, at $6 a share, was a 46 percent premium to Art Technology Group's closing price on Monday.
Oracle, meanwhile, was in U.S. District Court in Oakland, California on Tuesday in a suit charging SAP AG with stealing software. Oracle is seeking $2 billion in damages.
European stocks dropped in early trade on uncertainty over the Federal Reserve’s new measures, with investors reluctant to take big bets ahead of the policy decision Wednesday.
The dollar stayed weak on expectations of further monetary easing.
On Tap Next Week:
TUESDAY: Election Day, FOMC meeting begins; after-the-bell earnings from Electronic Arts.
WEDNESDAY: FOMC announcement; MBA mortgage applications, Challenger job-cut report, ADP employment report, Treasury refunding announcement, auto sales, factory orders, ISM non-manufacturing index, oil inventories; before-the-bell earnings from Time Warner, Aetna, CVS; after-the-bell earnings from Chesapeake Energy, News Corp, Prudential Financial and Transocean.
THURSDAY: Chain-store sales, BoE announcement, jobless claims, productivity and costs, ECB announcement; after-the-bell earnings from Kraft and Starbucks.
FRIDAY: Pending home sales index, non-farm payrolls report, consumer credit; Kansas City Fed President Hoenig speaks; before-the-bell earnings from Toyota; after-the-bell earnings from Berkshire Hathaway.
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