The Dow Jones industrial average slipped about 4 points, while broader indexes rose. Interest rates fell after spiking on Monday.
For a second day, the Dow came within about a dozen points of reaching the psychological milestone of 11,000 for the first time in 18 months.
Shares of regional banks rose following upbeat comments from analysts. Tech stocks were mixed after business software company CA Inc. said earnings for the year will come in at the lower end of its forecast. CA also said it would cut 1,000 jobs, or about 8 percent of its work force.
Massey Energy Co. fell more than 11 percent after an underground explosion Monday afternoon blamed on methane gas killed 25 coal miners about 30 miles south of Charleston, W.Va. Four others were missing Tuesday following the explosion about 1.5 miles from the entrance to Massey's Upper Big Branch mine. It was the worst U.S. mining disaster since 1984.
Stocks got a brief bounce in afternoon trading when the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting signaled that policymakers are more upbeat about the economy. Analysts said, however, that the minutes contained few surprises.
The quiet trading came as investors looked for clues about whether the market could continue its upward march. Stocks have been rising for 13 months but have made steadier advances since February following reports that signal the economy is improving. There have been few pauses during the recent gains that have seen the Dow rise in each of the past five weeks, its longest winning streak since mid-April last year.
Jason D. Pride, director of investment strategy at Glenmede in Philadelphia, said the market is making modest moves in part because stocks appear to be trading at fair levels.
"We're not at some steep discount but we're not at some overly optimistic level either," he said.
Companies will begin reporting earnings for the January-March quarter next week so traders will have a better sense of whether the recent climb in stocks is justified.
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow fell 3.56, or less than 0.1 percent, to 10,969.99. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.00, or 0.2 percent, to 1,189.44. The Nasdaq composite index rose 7.28, or 0.3 percent, to 2,436.81.