NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks staged a smart recovery late in Tuesday's session to finish right around the flatline ahead of President Obama's State of the Union address tonight.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished 3 points, or 0.03%, lower at 11,977, after dropping more than 80 points earlier in the session to 11,898. The S&P 500 settled with an incremental gain at 1291, bouncing roughly 10 points off its session-low. The Nasdaq Composite managed to add nearly 2 points, or 0.06%, to close at 2719.

Wal-Mart ( WMT), Verizon ( VZ) and Cisco Systems ( CSCO) led the Dow higher, while American Express ( AXP), Bank of America ( BAC) and Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) were among the blue-chip index's bigger losers. Breadth within the Dow was negative with 17 of its 30 components moving lower.

Stocks were in the red for most of the trading session Tuesday as investors digested mixed reports from a number of Dow components.

Verizon missed expectations but raised profit and sales targets driven largely by wireless and high hopes for its business with Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone. Johnson & Johnson met profit forecasts but fell short of revenue estimates. AmEx, which reported after Monday's closing bell, also disappointed Wall Street.

3M ( MMM) topped expectations despite a slight dip in quarterly profits and raised its sales outlook for 2011. DuPont
( DD) and Travelers ( TRV) also beat analyst views.

Overall, market breadth was even by the end of the trading session, with about 49% of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange losing ground, and 48% finishing in positive territory. Consumer cyclicals and telecom showed the most gains while basic materials was the weakest sector.

Early Tuesday, the Conference Board said consumer confidence jumped to 60.6 in January -- an eight-month high -- from 53.3 in December. The level far exceeded economists' expectations for a January reading of 53.5, according to Briefing.com.
Shopping

"The international market is definitely playing a bigger role for larger U.S. companies, and those are the companies that are feeling a pinch as the global market begins to slow in some areas," said Daniel Penrod, senior industry analyst for the California & Nevada Credit Union Leagues, about some of the recent earnings misses. "The hope had been that the international market would pull the U.S. through but we're seeing less stability than we previously thought."

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