U.S. stocks erased earlier losses but still closed in minor negative territory Tuesday, as investors hesitated to continuously push the market higher one day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 set record highs.
The Dow slipped 21.29 points, or 0.13 percent, to 16,722.34. The broader S&P 500 dropped 0.73 point, or 0.04 percent, to 1,924. 24. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 3.12 points, or 0.07 percent, to 4,234.08.
The modest retreating came after both the broader S&P 500 and the blue-chip Dow notched new all-time highs on the previous trading day, as investors calmly greeted a batch of economic data that came out mixed Monday.
After the continued record rally, the market opened lower before posting a choppy session amid low trading volume that tends to expand market volatility, as investors showed a little reluctance to jump in and add new positions in stocks.
Better-than-expected factory orders released half an hour after the opening bell propped up the equity market temporarily.
U.S. new orders for manufactured goods in April increased for three consecutive months, up 0.7 percent to 499.8 billion U.S. dollars, the highest level since 1992, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Economists had expected the reading to add 0.5 percent.
However, major stock indices still lacked strong upward momentum, trading below flatline in most of the session, as investors failed to find clear excuses to make a big move on stocks before the closely-watched non-farm payroll report by the Labor Department for May is to be published Friday.
Analysts expected U.S. unemployment rate to edge up to 6.4 percent in May from a five-and-a-half-year low of 6.3 percent in April.
On corporate news, Ford's shares were up 0.67 percent to 16.55 dollars apiece after the giant auto maker revealed that its sales of new cars and trucks in May climbed 3 percent.
General Motors said Tuesday that its dealers delivered 284,694 vehicles in the United States in May, up 13 percent compared to a year ago, marking the company's best total sales since August 2008. Shares of the company rose 1.15 percent to 35.26 dollars apiece.
The CBOE Volatility Index, a gauge of fear in the market, rose 2.5 percent to end at 11.87.
The U.S. dollar traded mixed against major currencies Tuesday after rallying in the previous session amid encouraging U.S. economic data.
In late New York trading, the euro rose to 1.3623 U.S. dollars from 1.3596 dollars of the previous session. The greenback bought 102.52 Japanese yen, higher than 102.46 yen of the previous session.
Oil prices steadied, a day before the Energy Information Administration (EIA) is scheduled to release a report on U.S. crude supplies.
Light, sweet crude for July delivery moved up 19 cents to settle at 102.66 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude for July delivery lost 1 cent to close at 108.82 dollars a barrel.
Gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange went up slightly as investors look ahead to monthly U.S. nonfarm payroll report to be released Friday.
The most active gold contract for August delivery rose 0.5 dollars, or 0.04 percent, to settle at 1,244.5 dollars per ounce.