U.S. stocks edged lower in a low-volume session on Tuesday, breaking a six-day string of gains as investors found little reason to push stocks higher as the year's end approached.
Data showing a rise in consumer confidence was offset by a housing report pointing to more bumps in the road.
The day's decline followed six days of gains. But the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index is still up 25 percent for the year.
Trading volume was the lowest for the year, according to Birinyi Associates, with many participants out before the New Year's holiday on Friday. At the close, only 638 million shares had changed hands, compared with last year's estimated daily average of 1.49 billion on the New York Stock Exchange.
On the data front, the Conference Board's index of consumer confidence rose more than expected in December to a reading of 52.9, a three-month high.
In contrast, the S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of home prices in 20 metropolitan areas, meanwhile, was unchanged in October, falling short of expectations.
I don't think anyone is expecting a major climb here out of this recession, said Owen Fitzpatrick, head of the U.S. equity group at Deutsche Bank Private Wealth Management in New York.
The housing news drove the Dow Jones U.S. Home Construction Index <.DJUSHB> down 0.3 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dipped 1.67 points, or 0.02 percent, to end at 10,545.41. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> slipped 1.58 points, or 0.14 percent, to finish at 1,126.20. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> declined 2.68 points, or 0.12 percent, to close at 2,288.40.
On the plus side, shares of consumer products giant Procter & Gamble Co , which makes Tide detergent and Crest toothpaste, rose 0.5 percent to $61.58 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Weighing on the Nasdaq was iPod and iPhone maker Apple Inc , which slid 1.2 percent to $209.10 after hitting recent highs. The stock was pressured as Nokia Corp said it has filed a complaint against Apple with the International Trade Commission in a patent dispute.
In corporate news, United Community Banks Inc fell 5 percent to $3.24 after the company temporarily suspended its stock dividend in a move to improve liquidity.
On Friday, U.S. financial markets will be closed for the New Year's Day holiday. (Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Jan Paschal)