Hewlett-Packard jumped after announcing that it is splitting itself in two. One company will focus on personal computers and printing and the other on technology services. Medical-equipment maker Carefusion surged on word that it was being acquired by its rival Becton Dickinson and Co.
But after opening higher, stocks gave up their early gains and alternated between small gains and small losses.
The S&P 500 fell 3.08 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,964.82. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 17.78 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,991.91. The Nasdaq composite fell 20.82 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,454.80.
Hewlett-Packard gained after announcing that it is splitting itself in two. One company will focus on personal computers and printing and the other on technology services such as data storage, servers and software. The stock climbed $1.67, or 4.7 percent, to $36.87.
Carefusion jumped $10.58, or 22.9 percent, to $56.75 on news that it was being acquired by a rival. New Jersey medical equipment maker Becton Dickinson and Co. said it will pay $12.2 billion for the company, in a combination focused on medication systems for hospitals and pharmacies. Becton climbed $9.14, or 7.9 percent, to $124.98.
The Fed is due to release minutes on Wednesday of its policy meeting last month and the central bank will end its bond purchases this month. Now investors are watching for clues about the likely timing of any interest rate hike.
H&R Block logged the biggest drop in the S&P 500 after saying that its latest attempt to sell its banking business is getting delayed in the regulatory approval process. The tax preparer said it would not be able to complete the deal before the next tax season. Its stock dropped $1.75, or 5.5 percent, to $29.91.
Nasdaq-listed GT Advanced Technologies, a supplier to Apple, was also among the day’s biggest losers. The company, which is developing sapphire materials to replace glass on some Apple’s products, lost almost all of its market value after saying that it was filing for bankruptcy. The stock plunged $10.25, or 93 percent, to 80 cents.
The dollar fell to 108.96 yen and the euro inched up to $1.2624. U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves in the opposite direction to its price, fell to 2.42 percent.
In energy trading, oil rose as the value of the dollar dropped. Meanwhile, natural gas fell sharply on forecasts for warmer weather.
U.S. benchmark oil rose 60 cents to $90.34 a barrel. Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oils imported by U.S. refiners, gained 48 cents to $92.79 a barrel in London. Oil is priced in dollars, so a decline in the dollar makes oil cheaper for buyers holding other currencies.
Natural gas dropped 14 cents to $3.90 per 1,000 cubic feet amid forecasts of mild temperatures along parts of the East Coast. Wholesale gasoline rose 3.47 cents to $2.413 a gallon and heating oil rose 0.5 cent to $2.621 a gallon
In metals trading, the price of gold rose $14.40, or 1.2 percent, to $1,207.30 an ounce. Silver also gained, climbing 40 cents, or 2.4 percent, to 17.23 an ounce. Copper gained 3.7 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $3.04 per pound.