NEW YORK (REUTERS) - United States (US) stocks seesawed between modest gains and losses on Tuesday following two days of gains on Wall Street as investors weighed the implications of strong economic data for the path of monetary policy over the next several months.
The Dow Jones industrial average erased its earlier losses to trade flat in late afternoon trade, led by Cisco Systems , up 2.7 per cent at $23.18.
The Institute for Supply Management said its services index rose a point to 55.4 in October despite a partial government shutdown during the first half of the month. The reading came in higher than September's 54.4, handily beating expectations for a slight deceleration.
Investors are scrambling to measure the impact of strong data on the Federal Reserve's decision to keep pumping US$85 billion (S$106 billion) monthly into the economy in the form of bond purchases.
This Fed stimulus has been instrumental in spurring a rally that has set the S&P 500 on course toward its best year in a decade.
The Fed has stressed its decision to change the level of stimulus is data dependent. Once the economy is strong enough, it has said it may begin to withdraw its massive bond purchases.
"Despite the bounce at the beginning of this week, equity markets likely need further consolidation, pullback before a more meaningful upside rally can develop given short-term indicators remain overbought," said Mr Robert Sluymer, analyst at RBC Capital Markets in New York.
Shares of Tesla Motors were up 1.6 per cent at $177.95 ahead of its earnings report after the closing bell.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 2.20 points, or 0.01 per cent, at 15,641.32. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 1.81 points, or 0.10 per cent, at 1,766.12. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 8.30 points, or 0.21 per cent, at 3,944.89.
On the New York Stock Exchange, declining stocks were beating advancers by 19 to 10, while on the Nasdaq decliners beat advancers by 14 to 11.
According to Thomson Reuters data, of 404 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported results through Tuesday morning, 69.6 per cent have topped Wall Street's expectations, above the long-term average of 63 per cent. However, just 53.3 percent beat revenue forecasts, below the 61 per cent average since 2002.
Michael Kors Holdings gained 6.5 per cent to $79.68 after the luxury apparel retailer reported a better-than-expected 40 per cent jump in quarterly revenue.
GT Advanced Technologies jumped more than 20 per cent to $10.10 after it said Apple will open a manufacturing facility in Arizona in partnership with the mineral crystal specialist to make sapphire materials for Apple's electronic devices.
CVS Caremark advanced 2.5 per cent to $63.51 after the drugstore operator and pharmacy benefits manager posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit and raised its forecast for the year.
Tenet Healthcare was the worst performer on the S&P 500, down 10 per cent to US$43.50 after its third-quarter net income slid from a year earlier.