The S&P 500 rose towards a record high in a choppy session on Tuesday, lifted by energy stocks and a solid quarterly report from Johnson & Johnson.
After dipping into negative territory and then recovering, the S&P 500 was less than 2 percent short of last May's record high close, with investors laser-focused on a growing flow of first-quarter earnings scorecards, including Intel (INTC.O) and Yahoo (YHOO.O) after the bell.
Chevron and other energy stocks got a lift from a rally in crude after a strike by oil workers in Kuwait dented the OPEC country's output.
A recent rebound in oil and signs that the U.S. economy is slowly improving have helped stocks rally from a steep selloff earlier this year that had pushed the S&P 500 down as much as 10.5 percent.
But Wall Street remains extremely cautious about first-quarter reports. Earnings of S&P 500 companies are seen falling 7.6 percent on average and revenues are seen dipping 1.3 percent, with the energy sector weighing heavily, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
"Investors are very focussed on revenue," said Chuck Self, Chief Investment Officer of iSectors in Appleton, Wisconsin. "After all the cost cutting over the past five years, now we need to start seeing revenue growth."
The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 0.4 percent to 4,939.95, hobbled by a 25 percent slide in Illumina (ILMN.O) after its preliminary results fell short of expectations.
Also hitting tech sentiment, IBM (IBM.N) fell 6.1 percent after it reported its worst quarterly revenue in 14 years, and was the biggest drag on the Dow and S&P 500.
Netflix (NFLX.O) shares fell 12 percent after the video streaming service's subscriber forecast missed estimates.
Six of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 1.82 percent rise in the materials sector .SPLRCM. Energy .SPNY was up 1.51 percent.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) rose 1.51 percent after it reported a marginal growth in quarterly sales. The stock was the biggest positive influence on the S&P 500.
Goldman Sachs (GS.N) shares added 2.43 percent after the bank reported better-than-expected quarterly profit.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,999 to 968. On the Nasdaq, 1,519 issues rose and 1,276 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 43 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 61 new highs and 19 lows.
(Additional reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski)
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