Stocks turned mixed by late in the session Wednesday as crude oil recovered from a steep selloff earlier in the session.
The S&P 500 was flat, recovering from an earlier decline of more than 1%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.12%, and the Nasdaq added 0.45%.
Crude oil came back from lows after a weekly read on crude inventories showed a smaller-than-feared increase. Crude inventories rose by 3.5 million barrels in the past week, above forecasts for a 3-million-barrel rise, according to the Energy Information Administration. However, that was smaller than a separate read from the American Petroleum Institute on inventories which showed a rise of 7.1 million barrels in crude inventories over the last week. WTI crude added 0.4% to $31.99 a barrel on Wednesday.
Hopes that negotiations between members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries could result in a production cut faded on Wednesday. In a speech earlier Tuesday, Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi dismissed the possibility of production cuts, instead arguing that by maintaining output, the market will rebalance over time as demand improves. Negotiations over a production freeze started last week as oil producers grapple with a global surplus.
The housing sector cooled in January with new home sales tumbling 9.2% to a seasonally-adjusted 494,000, the Commerce Department said. The read was its lowest since October and missed estimates of 520,000. Demand for housing remained strong, though, with existing home sales data released a day earlier peaking at a six-month high.
Federal Reserve chatter also kept traders on the sidelines on Wednesday. Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer reiterated that members "do not know" what the exact rate hike plan looks like, emphasizing a continued focus on incoming data in a speech on Tuesday night.
Fischer also commented on recent market volatility. "We have seen similar periods of volatility in recent years -- including in the second half of 2011 -- that have left little visible imprint on the economy, and it is still early to judge the ramifications of the increased market volatility of the first seven weeks of 2016," he noted.