Wall Street's main indexes dipped in a choppy session on Tuesday as a drop in General Electric shares countered positive retailer earnings and investors eyed a key resistance level for the benchmark S&P 500 after the market's strong run.
Concerns over US-China trade relations also hovered, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said President Donald Trump would reject a trade deal that was not perfect, but the United States would still keep working on an agreement.
Optimism over the trade talks and over the Federal Reserve being less aggressive in raising interest rates has helped boost the S&P 500 by 11 percent this year.
"With the market up as much as it is, I don't think investors are in a rush to commit a lot of new capital unless they see events that would cause them to think we have another leg up ahead," said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 13.02 points, or 0.05 percent, to 25,806.63, the S&P 500 lost 3.16 points, or 0.11 percent, to 2,789.65 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.21 points, or 0.02 percent, to 7,576.36.
Investors are watching to see if the S&P 500 can breach 2,800, a level which the index has traded near for several sessions.
"When you are here at that important level in the S&P 500, it's healthier to see the market slow down, pause, take account of the micro and the macro and absorb the good news," said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.
Communication services led gains among the 11 S&P 500 sectors, while industrials fell the most.
The consumer discretionary sector rose 0.2 percent, led by a 7.3 percent gain in Kohl's and 4.6 percent gain for Target following those retailers' respective earnings reports.
Both forecast 2019 profit above Wall Street estimates.
In other corporate news, General Electric shares dropped 4.7 percent as the conglomerate surprised investors by forecasting a net cash outflow from its industrial businesses this year. GE shares were among the biggest drags on the S&P 500.
Willis Towers Watson shares rose 5.2 percent as Aon Plc said it was in early talks to buy the rival insurance brokerage. Aon shares fell 7.8 percent and weighed on the S&P 500.
In economic news, sales of new US single-family homes rose to a seven-month high in December, but November's outsized jump was revised lower. Other data showed a rebound in growth in the vast services sector in February amid a surge in new orders.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.02-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.33-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 12 new 52-week highs and 1 new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 39 new highs and 35 new lows.About 6.9 billion shares changed hands in US exchanges, below the 7.3 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.