NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Stocks finished with mild losses after a light trading day Tuesday, as investors digested signs of stabilization in Japan amid

continued clashes in Libya and Yemen and uncertainties in Europe.

"We saw a lot of inaccurate information regarding the situation in Japan come out last Wednesday, and that sent a panic through the marketplace, but in the last two to three business days, we've seen a lessening of those worst case fears, which has brought the market back to what we feel is an appropriate midpoint," said Michael Strauss, chief economist and market strategist at Commonfund.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

finished lower by 18 down or 0.1% at 12,018. The

S&P 500

lost more than 4 points, or 0.4%, to close at 1294, and the

Nasdaq

shed 8 points, or 0.3%, to finish at 2684.

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

,

Travelers

(TRV) - Get Report

and

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

were the Dow's worst performers while

Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

,

American Express

(MRK) - Get Report

and

Verizon

(VZ) - Get Report

were among the top performers.

Volumes were light on Tuesday's trading session, with only 685 million shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange. Volumes have been rising amid higher volatility in recent trading sessions.

Market sentiment was mixed as well, with 44% of the stocks traded on the NYSE advancing while 55% finished the day lower.

Japanese stocks surged Tuesday on signs that the nuclear crisis in Japan is stabilizing. Also giving investor confidence a boost, legendary investor Warren Buffett said that his view on Japan was unchanged, despite the devastating earthquake.

Speaking at Daegu, South Korea, Buffett noted that the 9/11 terrorist attacks did not change the economic prospects of the U.S. and said that Japan will have the same energy and desire to move on from its crisis and focus on rebuilding. "I don't look at them differently from 10 days ago...Frequently, extraordinary events really create a buying opportunity," press reports quoted him saying.

Japan's Nikkei spiked 4.4% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.8%.

Oil prices rose as

Libyan oil exports remain stalled amid allied attacks on troops loyal to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The May crude contract added $1.87 to settle at $104.97 a barrel.

Walgreen

(WAG)

was the biggest loser on the S&P 500. The stock dropped 6.5% to $39.21 after the

drugstore operator reported second-quarter earnings that met analysts' expectations at 80 cents a share.

Discount retailer

Dollar General

(DG) - Get Report

earned 64 cents a share in the second quarter. Analysts had been expecting a profit of 59 cents a share. The stock climbed 1.5% at $30.84.

BJ's Wholesale

(BJ) - Get Report

saw its stock add nearly 5% to close at $48.84 after

private-equity firm Leonard Green said it's exploring a buyout offer for the discount retailer.

Shares of

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

advanced 1.1% to $26.29 on news that its investigational drug improved the survival of previously-untreated patients with metastatic melanoma.

Shares of

St. Jude Medical

(STJ)

was gaining the most on the S&P, rose 6.1% to $51.41 after an analyst at JP Morgan said the medical device company's product Quadra was the most important product in the implantable defibrillators market in the last nine years, according to a

Marketwatch

report.

American Tower

(AMT) - Get Report

,

Netflix

(NFLX) - Get Report

,

Massey Energy

( MEE) and

Apollo Group

(APOL)

were other gainers on the S&P.

Rare earth stocks were rising after Chinese rare export data showed a nine-fold rise in prices of rare earth goods in the first two months of 2011 from a year ago. The stocks of

Molycorp

(MCP)

,

Rare Element Resources

(REE)

and

Avalon Rare Metals

(AVL)

jumped 16%, 24% and 13% respectively.

Housing prices fell 0.3% in January, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency's housing price index. In December, the index slipped 0.1%.

Elsewhere in commodity markets, the April

gold contract rose $1.2 to settle at $1,424.60 an ounce.

London's FTSE shed 0.4% and the DAX in Frankfurt finished lower by 0.5%.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury fell 4/32, lifting the yield to 3.341%. The dollar weakened against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index down by 0.09%.

.

--Written by Melinda Peer and Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York

.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.