The S&P 500 and Nasdaq were little changed on Wednesday with investors cautious after a three-day rally and ahead of an audit of Greece's finances to decide whether the nation gets more aid to avoid bankruptcy.

Inspectors from the European Union and International Monetary Fund headed to Greece to scrutinize new austerity measures they must endorse for Athens to get the next tranche of aid. Greece's parliament approved a deeply unpopular property tax on Tuesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested that parts of a planned new $148.6 billion rescue for the debt-laden country could be reopened, depending on the audit's outcome.

Efforts to solidify a euro zone rescue fund and alleviate the region's sovereign debt crisis lifted stocks on Tuesday for a third consecutive session and came after four straight days of losses for the benchmark S&P 500. The S&P gained more than 4 percent over that three-day period.

We came into today somewhat overbought, given the recent gains, said Katie Stockton, chief market technician at MKM Partners in Greenwich, Connecticut. We were in store for a little pullback, and that's what we're getting.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 56.38 points, or 0.50 percent, at 11,247.07. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 0.92 points, or 0.08 percent, at 1,176.30. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 3.55 points, or 0.14 percent, at 2,543.28.

Market direction also may be influenced by quarter-end window dressing, as portfolio managers drop underperforming stocks and buy outperformers.

The material sector was by far the weakest on the S&P, dropping 2.1 percent. The group has rallied in recent session on optimism over developments in Europe.

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc sank 6.6 percent to $56.73 while Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc lost 4.4 percent to $33.29. Gold prices firmed, while crude was off 1.6 percent. Inc gained 3 percent to $230.72 after it unveiled a new tablet computer with a $199 price tag. Apple Inc, which makes the popular iPad tablet, rose 0.3 percent to $400.61.

Microsoft Corp was the winners on the Dow, rising 1.1 percent to $25.96 after Samsung Electronics Co Ltd unveiled software pacts with the company.

In earnings news, Jabil Circuit Inc advanced 9.5 percent to $19.03 a day after reporting fourth-quarter earnings that beat expectations, while Family Dollar Stores Inc rose 1.2 percent to $54.83 after forecasting strong profits.

In the latest economic data, new orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods slipped in August on weak demand for motor vehicles, but a rebound in a gauge of business spending suggested the economy would avoid another recession.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)