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Stocks Finish Mixed as Bernanke Wait Continues

The U.S. economic data was mixed. The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index fell to a nine-month low of 60.6 in August, from a downwardly revised 65.4 in July, as consumers took on a more pessimistic outlook. Economists thought the confidence index would increase to 66 in August.

A read on the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index showed a rise annually of 0.5% in June after a decline of 0.7% in May. Economists expected a fall of 0.1% annually in June.

For the second straight month, all 20 cities recorded positive monthly gains.

Michelle Meyer, senior U.S. economist at Bank of America, said that the home price data supports her view that national home prices bottomed at the beginning of the year. "That said, the recovery is likely to be bumpy and we expect softening into year-end."

On consumer confidence, she noted that weakness was concentrated in the expectations component, "which likely reflects uncertainty around the fiscal cliff and election;" adding that the economy has been slow to recover with limited job opportunities, heightened international risks and political uncertainty. "This will keep consumers on edge and the economic growth sluggish."

Overseas markets were subdued as global growth anxieties overshadowed hopes for global central bank accommodation, with Japan slashing its assessment of the economy, referencing a slowdown in the U.S. and China, and the European debt crisis. Japan warned of potential risks for the country due to the sluggish global environment.

Spain's second-quarter gross domestic product shrank 1.3% from last year, worse than the prior estimate of a 1% contraction and indicating that the country was in a deeper recession than previously thought. The data was overshadowing improved eurozone lending data.

Meanwhile, the Spanish region of Catalonia is planning to request €5.02 billion ($6.28 billion) in financial aid from the Spanish government's liquidity program.

A meeting was taking place between European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Madrid Tuesday to talk about the economic crisis and Spain's efforts to avoid having to seek a sovereign bailout.

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