Stocks were little changed in choppy trade on Tuesday as uncertainty surrounding the euro zone debt crisis kept investors away from beaten-down shares after days of selling.
Banks and energy stocks helped offset early losses, holding the major indexes near break-even.
Investors, worried about the euro zone's debt crisis, want to see more evidence of good U.S. earnings before taking the market higher, strategists said.
Stock prices stabilized as investors bought on dips, but we won't see a sustainable rally until we see good numbers out on the table from major companies' earnings report, said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 4.88 points, or 0.04 percent, at 12,510.64. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 0.76 point, or 0.06 percent, at 1,320.25. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 9.95 points, or 0.36 percent, at 2,792.67.
On Monday stocks posted their worst day in a month.
The Nasdaq underperformed other indexes as chipmakers fell sharply after Novellus Systems Inc
But shares of Google
The CBOE Volatility Index <.VIX>, Wall Street's fear gauge, rose 3.8 percent, reflecting sentiment that sent equities around the world into a slide.
The level of nervousness in the market has certainly grown. We are looking for resolutions, but we're only getting a lot of chatter, said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco.
European officials for the first time refused to rule out default by Greece and investors feared the crisis could overtake the bigger European economies of Spain and Italy.
Helping support markets, traders cited rumors that the ECB was buying peripheral bonds for the first time in three months, with Portugal the suspected target.
The euro stumbled to an all-time low against the Swiss franc on Tuesday as euro zone government bond yields vaulted higher, prompting investors to dump the single currency for safer ones.
Minutes from the most recent meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee will be released at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT), which could offer clues about the state of the U.S. economic recovery.
(Reporting by Angela Moon, Editing by Kenneth Barry)