The Dow and S&P slipped on Wednesday, with falling oil prices prompting investors to sell some energy shares and concerns about bank profits pressuring the financial sector.
But the Nasdaq clung to a slight gain after positive news on online retailers such as Amazon.
Worries that bank profits could be hurt by derivatives legislation under consideration also curbed enthusiasm about the broader market. The S&P financial index <.GSPF> declined 0.3 percent.
JPMorgan Chase & Co said it could see its revenue fall by as much as $3 billion in a worst case scenario under the legislation, according to a note from Sanford C. Bernstein to investors. Shares of JPMorgan, a Dow component, fell 1.4 percent to $41.63.
An ADP National Employment private-sector survey showed U.S. private employers shed 169,000 jobs in November. That data got Wall Street's attention because weakness in the labor market is one of the biggest headwinds facing a recovery.
While the number was fewer than the 195,000 jobs cut in October, the ADP report was worse than expected. [ID:nN02192113] The U.S. government's monthly employment data is due Friday morning.
It's a tight range today, and investors are just waiting on the sidelines to see if there's more to Dubai World or employment numbers, said Alan Lancz, president of Alan B. Lancz & Associates Inc., an investment advisory firm based in Toledo, Ohio.
Last week, concerns over a possible debt default by Dubai World triggered a sell-off in stocks globally on Friday.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 25.70 points, or 0.25 percent, at 10,445.88. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 1.03 points, or 0.09 percent, at 1,107.83. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 7.16 points, or 0.33 percent, at 2,182.97.
Amid continued questions about retailers' strength in the holiday shopping season, online vendors were strong performers after analytics firm comScore said that Cyber Monday sales were up 5 percent from the previous year.
Shares of Amazon.com jumped 2.7 percent to $142.26 on Nasdaq.
January crude oil futures fell $1.77 to settle at $76.60 per barrel after U.S. government inventory data showed a surprising build in crude and gasoline stockpiles.
The unexpected increase in energy supply gave investors a reason to unload some energy companies' shares, pushing the S&P Energy index <.GSPE> down 1 percent and making it the worst performer among S&P sectors. Occidental Petroleum shed 1.4 percent to $81.00. Exxon Mobil dropped 0.5 percent to $75.65.
(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Jan Paschal)