By Damian J. Troise and Alex Veiga
A late-afternoon burst of buying on Wall Street faded in the final minutes of trading Tuesday, leaving the major stock indexes mixed.
The S&P 500 slipped 0.1% after spending much of the day wavering between small gains and losses. The modest pullback followed the benchmark index's biggest drop in four months a day earlier.
Roughly 66% of stocks in the S&P 500 fell, with industrial, communication and financial companies accounting for much of the drop. Bond yields mostly rose. The price of U.S. crude oil also rose.
For parts of the afternoon the market had looked like it would recoup some of the losses it took in Monday's big sell-off, but by the closing bell even those gains had mostly fizzled. The market's uneven showing came as investors looked ahead to Wednesday afternoon, when the Federal Reserve is set to deliver its latest economic and interest rate policy update.
“It’s a bit of a pause and the market is waiting for the Federal Reserve to see what they have to say tomorrow,” said Rob Haworth, senior investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
The S&P 500 fell 3.54 points to 4,354.19, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 50.63 points, or 0.1%, to 33,919.84. The Nasdaq composite rose 32.49 points, or 0.2%, to 14,746.49.
Small company stocks also managed gains. The Russell 2000 index rose 3.98 points, or 0.2%, to 2,186.18.
European markets closed broadly higher, while Asian markets mostly rose. Chinese markets remained closed for a holiday.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury edged higher to 1.32% from 1.31% late Monday.
The market sell-off on Monday was prompted in part by worries about heavily indebted Chinese real estate developers and the damage they could do if they default and send ripple effects through markets. That added to a wide range of concerns hovering over investors, including the highly contagious delta variant as well as higher prices squeezing business and consumers.
Wall Street is also gauging how the recovery's slowdown will impact the Fed's policies that have helped support the market and economy. The central bank will release a policy statement on Wednesday, which will be closely watched for any signals on how it will eventually reduce its bond purchases that have helped keep interest rates low.
Health care stocks led the gainers Tuesday. Johnson & Johnson rose 0.4% after reporting that a booster of its one-shot coronavirus vaccine provides a stronger immune response months after people receive a first dose.
Technology companies, which led the broad sell-off Monday, regained some ground. Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices rose 1.6%.
Several companies made solid gains after giving investors encouraging financial updates. Ride-hailing company Uber jumped 11.5% after telling investors that it could post an adjusted profit this quarter. Equipment rental supplier Herc Holdings rose 6.7% following a solid long-term growth forecast.
Supply chain problems, which have been hurting a broad range of industries, weighed on several companies. Homebuilder Lennar fell 0.5% after home deliveries for the third quarter fell short of analysts' forecasts because of supply chain problems.
Restaurant operator Cracker Barrel fell 2.7% after reporting weak fiscal fourth-quarter financial results.
Universal Music jumped 35.7% in its debut on Amsterdam's stock exchange.
Updated on September 21, 2021, at 5:11 p.m. ET.