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Stocks end mixed as investors await Bernanke

Updated at 4:05 p.m. ET: Stocks closed Tuesday narrowly mixed as investors continued to take a wait-and-see approach ahead of a key speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke later this week.

Equities haven't moved much in recent sessions, with market participants reluctant to make big bets ahead of the speech on Friday at a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Bernanke is expected to sustain expectations for a third round of quantitative easing, though he could keep markets guessing about the timing of such an action. The S&P 500 has dipped 0.2 percent over the past three sessions.

"There's no consensus on what Bernanke will say, and there seems to be a split among Fed presidents about whether something needs to be done, so until we know, everyone is just waiting," said Tim Speiss, head of personal wealth advisors at EisnerAmper in New York.

Stocks have risen almost 8 percent over the past three months, in large part on growing expectations for stimulus measures. That has led some analysts to say any new Fed policy is already priced in, and that no stimulus would be a catalyst for losses.

Citing a deceleration in U.S. and Chinese economic growth, Japan's government cut its economic assessment and warned that a slowdown posed risks to its economy.

The S&P 500 has had trouble staying above the April high of 1,422.38, which is seen as a key resistance point. It has also found support at 1,400.

In economic news, a closely watched survey showed U.S. single-family home prices gained for the fifth month in a row in June, a fresh sign of improvement in the housing market.

Reuters contributed to this report.