Stocks were little changed on Tuesday, with major indexes seesawing between gains and losses before a key vote by Slovakia on expanding the euro zone rescue fund.
The back-and-forth moves on Wall Street follow several days of sharp gains. The S&P 500 has risen 8.7 percent over the past five days, its biggest five-day move since March 2009, as stocks recovered from steep losses tied to worries about the euro zone debt crisis.
Markets have been reacting to news from the euro zone where officials are trying to contain a debt crisis that threatens large European banks and global financial stability.
It's been the biggest problem on the front burner for the U.S., said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Robert W. Baird & Co in Nashville. It looks like it's being diffused.
With 16 of 17 euro zone states having ratified a pact to boost the size and powers of the European Financial Stability Facility bailout fund, all eyes turned to Slovakia. The country's finance minister said the country was expected to approve the changes this week.
Any more delays in coming up with a plan intended to head off crisis could give the market an excuse to sell. Stocks have reached the top of a recent range, hitting resistance around 1195 on the S&P 500.
With earnings season beginning after the close of trading with Alcoa Inc's
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 17.33 points, or 0.15 percent, at 11,415.85. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 0.66 point, or 0.06 percent, at 1,194.23. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 8.21 points, or 0.32 percent, at 2,574.26.
Alcoa, the largest U.S. aluminum company, was up 2.6 percent to $10.35, making it the best performer on the Dow.
Expectations are so low that Alcoa doesn't have to say a lot in order to beat expectations, said King Lip, chief investment officer at Baker Avenue Asset Management in San Francisco.
In the past week, analysts have lowered their consensus earnings estimates for Alcoa, citing a precipitous drop in metals prices in recent months sparked by global economic concerns.
At midday, about one stock advanced for every decliner on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq. About 2.87 billion shares were traded on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq, lower than average.
(Reporting by Ashley Lau; editing by Kenneth Barry)