NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks were mixed by midafternoon Tuesday, though the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 remained lower, pressured as the Federal Reserve convened for its March meeting.
Crude oil recovered above $43 a barrel by the afternoon session. West Texas Intermediate crude was down 1% to $43.45 a barrel, though it bounced back from losses of more than 1% earlier.
The commodity had been under pressure after Iran's oil minister said on Monday that the country would increase production by 1 million barrels a day if international sanctions are lifted. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif are reportedly close to sealing a nuclear deal that could involve lifting sanctions.
Major oilers including PetroChina(PTR) - Get Report, Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) , BP(BP) - Get Report and Total(TOT) - Get Report were higher, though the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) - Get Report remained 0.46% lower.
The Fed on Tuesday kicked off its March meeting at which the timing of an interest rate hike is expected to be discussed. Stocks have been highly volatile over the past week as Wall Street focused on whether the Fed might remove its "patient" language from its statement, a move that would set into action a possible rate hike later this year. A statement from the Fed is expected Wednesday afternoon.
"Even though the removal of 'patient' will be interpreted as a hawkish signal that a June rate hike remains on the table, Fed Chair Yellen could conceivably use the subsequent press conference to take some of the sting out of the market's reaction by reinforcing the data-dependency of the Fed's decision with regard to the timing and pace of liftoff," said TD Securities' head of U.S. rates and economic research, Eric Green.
Alibaba(BABA) - Get Report was 1% higher after Stifel Nicolaus upgraded shares to "buy" from "hold" noting regulatory risk surrounding counterfeit items had subsided. Apple was up 1.7% on reports the tech giant could announce a Web TV offering as early as June, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Facebook added nearly 2% after Brean Capital initiated coverage with a "buy" rating and $96 price target. The firm said the company can harness growth opportunities in emerging markets.
Retail fund Macerich(MAC) - Get Report rejected a $16 billion bid from shopping-mall real estate company Simon Property(SPG) - Get Report and adopted a poison pull to go into effect should anyone acquire more than a 10% stake. Macerich dropped 3.3% and Simon Property was down 0.24%.
Chipmaker Himax(HIMX) - Get Report plummeted nearly 10% after Bank of America analysts downgraded the stock to "underperform" from "buy" and slashed price targets to $7. The firm said there has been little news of new products requiring microdisplays from big tech companies that would prove beneficial to Himax.
DSW(DSW) - Get Report surged 3.8% after reporting a 7% increase in comparable-store sales over its fourth quarter. The footwear retailer reported earnings of 35 cents a share, 7 cents better than forecast, while sales spiked nearly 12%. Burlington Stores(BURL) - Get Report popped 0.85% after beating analysts' estimates on its top- and bottom-line and after posting a nearly 7% increase in comparable-store sales during the fourth quarter.
Plug Power(PLUG) - Get Report shares tumbled 6.6% after the fuel cell maker reported a wider-than-expected loss in the fourth quarter. The alternative energy company reported a net loss of 8 cents a share, double forecasts.
Oracle(ORCL) - Get Report and Adobe(ADBE) - Get Report are expected to report earnings after the closing bell on Tuesday. Oracle is expected to report quarterly earnings of 68 cents a share, while Adobe should post 39 cents a share.