NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The major U.S. equity averages finished mixed in sluggish trading Tuesday with lingering eurozone uncertainties set against more evidence of a recovery in the housing market.

A gloomy assessment of the global economy by package delivery giant FedEx ( FDX) put an early damper on sentiment but the latest data from the National Association of Home Builders was a bright spot. The group's measure of builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes rose for a fifth straight month in September to a level of 40, the highest reading since June 2006.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained nearly 12 points, or 0.09%, to close at 13,565. The blue-chip index has now risen in five of the past six sessions and is up 11.03% so far in 2012.

Within the Dow, losers outpaced winners, 17 to 13. The biggest percentage decliners were Alcoa ( AA), American Express ( AXP), du Pont ( DD), and United Technologies ( UTX).

Blue-chip gainers included Caterpillar ( CAT), Kraft Foods ( KFT), and McDonald's ( MCD).

The S&P 500 fell nearly 2 points, or 0.13%, to settle at 1459, while the Nasdaq was off less than a point, or 0.03%, to finish at 3178.

Most sectors in the broad market were lower with the consumer cyclicals, financial, transportation and energy sectors seeing the deepest selling. Health care and consumer non-cyclicals were in the green. Volume was very light, just above 3.36 billion on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.71 billion on the Nasdaq.

Europe was once again becoming a concern for investors with both Spanish and Italian bond yields on the rise in recent sessions, reflecting worries that both countries will eventually have to ask for official bailouts. Some media reports this week have already indicated the Spanish government is getting ready to seek a rescue facility, likely subsequent to regional elections in Galicia and the Basque country on Oct. 21.

The FTSE in London fell 0.61% while the DAX in Germany was off 0.69%.

In Germany, the closely followed ZEW Economic Sentiment Survey gave a mixed picture of the eurozone, increasing 7.3 points to -18.2 points in September, the indicator's first increase after four declines in a row, as the ECB's bond buying announcement may have provided a lift, according to the Centre for European Economic Research. However, the negative value of the indicator shows that financial market experts still expect the German economy to lose momentum over the next six months, according to the report.

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