U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday on strength in large-cap tech shares, but continuing global crises kept investors cautious before the quarter's end.
The S&P 500 index has risen 4.2 percent in the first quarter as of Monday. Investors were reluctant to risk gains with Japan's nuclear power problems and the civil unrest in the Middle East and North Africa unresolved. Monday's trading volume was the lowest of the year.
The quarter is ending with a lot of uncertainties out there, resulting in messy intraday moves at the same time that nothing is really happening, said Michael Shaoul, chairman of the New York-based Marketfield Asset Management, which oversees $973 million.
There's nothing obvious about what investors need to do in this environment, and that's why you're seeing such low volume, he said. No one has any reason to recommit capital.
Home Depot Inc said late on Monday it would buy back $1 billion of outstanding shares through an accelerated program. Its stock rose 2.8 percent to $37.67 and was the Dow's top percentage gainer.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 26.04 points, or 0.21 percent, at 12,223.92. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 0.23 of a point, or 0.02 percent, at 1,310.42. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 10.08 points, or 0.37 percent, at 2,740.73.
The Nasdaq was helped by strength in large-cap tech shares. Amazon.com Inc rose 2.2 percent to $173.12 after it introduced a service offering remote access to music.
Cisco Systems rose 1.6 percent to $17.40 after it said it plans to buy newScale Inc for an undisclosed amount to boost its cloud computing services.
On the downside, Apollo Group fell 7.2 percent to $39.30 after the education company said new enrollment fell 45 percent in second quarter.
Lennar Corp fell 2 percent to $19.36 after swinging to a first-quarter profit but reporting a drop in revenue.
Wal-Mart Stores will urge the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to reject a case brought on behalf of female employees who allege the retailer gave women less pay and fewer promotions in the largest, class-action sex-discrimination lawsuit ever. Wal-Mart, a Dow component, slipped 0.1 percent to $52.15.
On the economic front, U.S. single-family home prices fell for the seventh straight month in January, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas. However, the drop was not as much as expected.
After the market opened, data showed U.S. consumer confidence fell in March as expectations about jobs and income growth worsened, according to the Conference Board, a private research group.
(Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Jan Paschal)