The Dow and S&P 500 ended slightly lower on Tuesday following losses in energy shares and Boeing, offsetting a small gain in technology stocks and renewed hopes for progress in trade talks.
The Nasdaq ended the session essentially flat as a rebound in tech kept the index out of negative territory.
Energy stocks weighed heaviest on the S&P 500, driven lower by a 7.1 percent plunge in crude prices, their biggest percentage drop in 2-1/2 years. The energy sector closed down 2.4 percent.
Boeing Co reported a 37 percent increase in 737 deliveries in October, but shares fell on concerns related to last month's deadly crash of a 737 operated by Indonesia's Lion Air. The stock ended the session down 2.1 percent, providing the biggest drag on the Dow.
US-China trade tensions enjoyed a reprieve as negotiations between the world's two largest economies appeared to be making headway, with a US adviser saying the countries' two leaders would meet at the G20 meeting later this month.
"If you look at investor sentiment...it's fairly clear even in the sharp rally days over the last few days there's not been significant conviction there," said Oliver Pursche, vice chairman and chief market strategist at Bruderman Asset Management in New York.
"If you're looking at market action today, that reflects an unsuredness and lack of direction," Pursche added. "And you're probably not going to get a sense of direction until we get through the G20 meeting and that's assuming there's going to be some positive developments there."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 100.69 points, or 0.4 percent, to 25,286.49, the S&P 500 lost 4.04 points, or 0.15 percent, to 2,722.18 and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.01 points, or 0 percent, to 7,200.88.
The S&P 500 registered its lowest close since Oct. 31.
General Electric ended up 7.8 percent as the conglomerate unveiled plans to raise $4 billion by accelerating a sale of its stake in oilfield services provider Baker Hughes.
Homebuilder Beazer Homes USA Inc jumped 30.6 percent after its quarterly revenue topped estimates and the company announced a $50 million buyback plan.
Home Depot Inc posted better-than-expected same-store sales but suggested that US home sales were slowing down and impending tariffs could lead to price hikes for its products.. The stock closed nominally lower.
Amazon.com shares closed down 0.3 percent following the online retailer's announcement that it had selected New York City and Northern Virginia for its two new headquarters.
Shares of Tyson Foods Inc dropped 5.6 percent, among the biggest percentage losers on the S&P 500, after the top US meat processor's sales missed Wall Street estimates due to lower demand for chicken.
As third-quarter earnings season approaches the final stretch, with 91 percent of S&P 500 companies having reported, 77.5 percent have beaten estimates, according to Refinitiv data.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.08-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.05-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 11 new 52-week highs and 9 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 15 new highs and 151 new lows.
Volume on US exchanges was about 8.2 billion shares, slightly below the 8.4 billion average over the past 20 sessions.