Not even Apple shares surpassing the $700 level for the first time could ignite a rally. Apple Inc. rose $2.13 to close at $701.91. Its shares have risen more than 19 percent in the last three months. The gain has been driven by strong sales of the company's iPhone and related gadgets.
Stocks broadly have been on a strong run. The S&P 500 is up 14 percent since June 1.
"The market is at high levels, certainly due for a pullback, and I suspect we'll probably see one," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital.
The S&P 500 index fell 1.87 points to close at 1,459.32. The Nasdaq closed down 0.87 point at 3,177.80. The Dow rose 11.54 points to 13,564.64.
Markets had rallied sharply last week after the Federal Reserve announced aggressive measures intended to kick-start the economy. This week, investors appear more focused on the weak growth that caused the Fed to act in the first place.
The Fed's announcement was for open-ended asset purchases, noted Charlie Smith, chief investment officer for Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.
"The feeling on the Street is, 'OK, what can they do next?' and by definition there's nothing more they can do than what they announced," he said. That means investors may feel that they've gotten all of the gains they're going to get after the Fed's announcement, he said.
Ed Hyland, managing director at JP Morgan Private Bank, said it's noteworthy that the market hasn't pulled back more after its recent run-up.
"It will be interesting to see, as we move into earnings season, how the market will react to what we think will be a little bit weaker earnings and macro data," he said.
Also on Tuesday, the Commerce Department reported that the current account deficit, the broadest measure of American trade, dropped 12.1 percent in the second quarter. That's down from a record high in the January-through-March quarter.
The deficit shrank because of an increase in American exports and cheaper oil. But economists are predicting it will grow again because of the global slowdown.
Among other notable moves by stocks Tuesday were:
Energizer Holdings Inc. jumped $7.30, or 10.7 percent, to $75.22 after the battery and flashlight maker said it will cut jobs and reduce its overhead.
Advanced Micro Devices plunged 39 cents, or 9.7 percent, to $3.62 after the world's second-largest maker of microprocessors for personal computers announced unexpectedly that its chief financial officer was leaving.
Clearwire Corp. fell 16 cents, or 10.4 percent, to $1.38 after Time Warner Cable Inc. said it would sell its 7.8 percent stake in the wireless infrastructure company.