Stocks were lower and the S&P 500 remained below a key technical level on Wednesday as conflicting reports showed improved corporate earnings and falling durable goods orders.

The S&P 500 index, which has failed to gain any significant ground, fell Tuesday after a three-day rally in its 200-day moving average, a closely watched measure of market direction.

It is really going to take some visibility into the coming months to break this trading range, which only economic data can really provide, said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management in Bedford Hills, New York.

The S&P's 200-day moving average is currently around 1,114. Investors are struggling to either define it as the top of a recent rally or a consolidation point leading to further gains.

Boeing Co reported higher-than-expected quarterly profit but forecast full-year earnings slightly below estimates. The plane maker's shares fell 1.9 percent to $67.36.

With 49 percent of the S&P 500 reporting earnings, 77 percent of companies have beat expectations, according to Thomson Reuters Proprietary Research.

New orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods unexpectedly fell for a second straight month in June, posting their largest decline since August.

In another environment, the durable goods report would have sent the market down more, Ghriskey said. The fact that the market is actually flat in the face of that is a positive sign for stocks.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 37.54 points, or 0.36 percent, at 10,500.15. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 6.07 points, or 0.54 percent, at 1,107.77. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 20.76 points, or 0.91 percent, at 2,267.49.

The U.S. Federal Reserve's Beige Book indicated that economic activity was still increasing, but not robustly in a few districts and had lost steam over the past several weeks. Stocks were unchanged after the data was released.

Defense contractor General Dynamics Corp and ConocoPhillips , the third largest U.S. oil company, both posted stronger-than-expected quarterly profits. General Dynamics rose 0.7 percent to $62.22, while ConocoPhillips was off 0.1 percent to $54.40.

Homebuilders fell sharply a day after Meritage Homes Corp reported a 22 percent sales decline following the expiration of a federal homebuyer tax credit.

Meritage dipped 5.2 percent to $17.03, and the PHLX Housing Index <.HGX> fell 2.7 percent.

(Reporting by Matthew Lynley; Editing Jeffrey Benkoe)