The Nasdaq fell on Wednesday after technology heavyweight Apple missed earnings expectations, while the other big indexes were little changed after a run-up in the last session on a report Europe would beef up its crisis fund.
U.S. stocks surged in late trading on Tuesday, boosted by a report in Britain's Guardian newspaper that France and Germany would pump up the euro zone's rescue fund to more than 2 trillion euros. Two senior European Union officials dismissed the report.
The S&P 500 index has struggled to make progress as it approaches the top end of a two-month trading range at around 1,250, having gained more than 11 percent since early October.
Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at John Thomas Financial in New York, said the recent run-up in the market would likely mean that gains would be kept in check for now.
The wide swinging day we had yesterday might cap the market for a little while, he said. People are nervous about earnings in general regardless of Apple ... it's a mixed bag right now.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dropped 11.50 points, or 0.10 percent, to 11,565.55. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> fell 2.28 points, or 0.19 percent, to 1,223.10. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> dropped 17.98 points, or 0.68 percent, to 2,639.45.
Europe is still the biggest story in this market and the rumors yesterday of a large cash infusion are positive to the market on so many levels, said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in New York.
Tens of thousands of striking Greeks rallied outside parliament in one of the biggest protests since the crisis broke out nearly two years ago, as lawmakers debated a new wave of public sector pay cuts and layoffs demanded by lenders in exchange for more bailout funds.
Helping put a floor under stocks, U.S. housing starts surged in September at their fastest annual pace in 17 months, the government reported. The Dow Jones housing index <.DJUSHB> rose 1.2 percent.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)