NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- After fluctuating between gains and losses for much of the day, U.S. stock indices ended Tuesday mixed.
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With September historically being the "worst" month of the year for stock market performance and a number of big economic headlines expected in the back half of the week, investors returned from the U.S. Labor Day weekend largely indecisive about their positioning, despite a trio of good U.S. economic reports.
The ISM manufacturing index hit a stronger-than-anticipated 59 in August, while construction spending rebounded by a more-than-forecast 1.8% in July. The Markit PMI manufacturing index, at 57.9 in August, increased to its highest level since April 2010.
Investors were not impressed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average
fell 0.18% to 17,067.56 and the S&P 500
was down 0.05% to 2,002.28. The Nasdaq
was up 0.39% to 4,598.19.
Breadth was mildly negative. Twenty one of the 30 Dow components ticked lower, most noticeably Home Depot
, which fell 2.02% to $91.15 on news that the home improvement company may have suffered a customer credit and debit data breach. About 1.1 issues declined for every advancer. Sector performance was mixed, with energy being the worst performer, thanks to a decline in oil majors and services companies such as Chevron
. The consumer discretionary sector was one of the better performers of the day after Dollar General
(DG) raised its offer
for Family Dollar
to $80 a share, or $9.1 billion, from $78.50 a share. Dollar General rose 0.58% to $64.36 on the report. Family Dollar was up 0.49% to $80.22. Home Depot offset some of these gains.
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provided a boost to the broad market. The stock rose 0.78% to $103.30, adding to gains ahead of its Sept. 9 press event
where it's widely expected to unveil the next iPhone, which may be called the iPhone 6 or the iPhone Air.
"Investors are going to have to figure out how they feel about better economic data in the context of less Fed accommodation. Assuming forecasts hold, this is going to be the struggle as the year progresses," said Dan Greenhaus, chief strategist at BTIG.
The Federal Reserve
is expected to keep a close eye on Friday's August nonfarm payrolls report. The central bank's labor market conditions index that was referenced by Fed Chair Janet Yellen in her Jackson Hole, Wyo., speech sources much of its data points from these numbers.
In the eurozone, the attention was being squarely focused on Thursday's meeting of the European Central Bank and hopes of moves toward a policy of quantitative easing.
U.S. equities closed slightly higher on Friday, capping four straight weekly gains and booking their best August
since 2000, despite geopolitical concerns weighing on the markets. The close also marked the biggest monthly gain since February. The S&P 500 struck a new closing high on Friday.
While September is often viewed with a degree of skittishness by investors -- it is the only month with negative average returns dating back to 1980 -- the S&P has actually been up in eight of the last 10 Septembers and 63% of Septembers since 1995. Average returns have been skewed by outliers, making the month's positive median gain more relevant focus on, said Greenhaus.
United States Oil Fund
was down 2.74% to $34.78 while the SPDR Gold Trust
was off 1.78% to $121.65.
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--By Andrea Tse in New York