Mixed earnings reports and a stronger dollar helped stocks finish about where they started Tuesday.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 5 points. Stocks started the day lower after weak results from Texas Instruments Inc., U.S. Steel Corp. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. Shares of Dow component DuPont fell after the chemical maker's earnings fell. A gain in consumer confidence this month helped stocks pare their losses and then edge higher in afternoon trading.
"The consumer confidence numbers were encouraging," said Bernie McSherry, vice president of strategic initiatives at Cuttone and Co. It's a sign shoppers "may be reaching into their wallets heading into the holiday shopping season."
Ford Motor Co. and Coach Inc. were among the few bright spots in the big batch of earnings reports released Tuesday.
Drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb reported a better-than-expected profit, but revenue fell short of forecasts.
U.S. Steel surprised analysts by reporting a quarterly loss, while chipmaker Texas Instruments said it expects sales to moderate during the fourth quarter because of low consumer demand.
The Dow rose 5.41, or 0.1 percent, to 11,169.46.
The Dow had been hovering near its highest trading levels of the year over the past few days, but has been unable to maintain upward momentum. Twice in the past three days the Dow has briefly traded above its highest closing level of the year, only to pull back before the end of the day.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.02 to 1,185.64, while the technology-focused Nasdaq composite index rose 6.44, or 0.3 percent, to 2,497.29.
Traders were moving out of riskier assets as the dollar strengthened. A stronger dollar makes stocks and commodities more expensive because they are priced in dollars. The dollar rose against Japan's yen and the euro Tuesday.
Home prices slid in August, renewing concerns about the health of the housing market. Fifteen of the 20 cities measured in the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index saw price declines.
Bond prices fell slightly. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 2.62 percent from 2.56 percent late Monday.
Trading volume on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange came to 965 billion shares.
"It's a meandering market," said Kimberly Foss, president at Empyrion Wealth Management. She said it's likely to remain that way until after the midterm elections and Federal Reserve meeting next week.
Disappointing news from European companies like banking giant UBS, wind turbine maker Vestas and steel maker ArcelorMittal drove stocks lower overseas. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.8 percent and France's CAC-40 fell 0.5 percent. Germany's DAX fell 0.4 percent.
Ford rose 21 cents to $14.37 after it beat expectations and announced plans to accelerate debt repayments.