Stocks fell Tuesday, with the Standard & Poor's 500 Index retreating from its highest level since September 2008, as a stronger dollar weighed on prices of commodities and shares of the companies that produce them.
Stocks pared losses as minutes from the last Federal Reserve meeting said the economic recovery wasn't strong enough to scale back a second round of its bond-buying program known as "quantitative easing."
The S&P 500 slid 0.1 percent to 1,270.20 after losing as much as 0.7 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 20.43 points, or 0.2 percent, to 11,691.18.
"The market is in a very reactive mode, trading off data points, and that kind of news dependency speaks to a lack of commitment by investors to stay invested," said Liam Dalton, president of Axiom Capital Management in New York. "I would be suspicious of any strength early this year because we have conflicting signals, and the overall economy may be improving, but it is still not so strong that it can support a major bull market."
Newmont Mining declined 3.3 percent to $59.08. Gold futures tumbled 3.1 percent to $1,378.80 an ounce amid speculation that a global recovery will curb demand for the metal as an investment haven.
Freeport-McMoRan lost 0.7 percent, dropping to $118.75. Copper futures fell the most in six weeks on speculation that manufacturers have enough metal to meet demand.
Motorola Mobility, the mobile-phone maker spun off from Motorola on Tuesday, rose the most in the S&P 500, gaining 9.5 percent to $33.12 on its first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange, valuing the company at $9.74 billion.
The stock, which trades under the ticker MMI, was rated "overweight" in new coverage by Barclays and "outperform" by Cowen & Co.
Motorola Solutions, formed from Motorola's remaining two-way radio and scanning-gear units, began trading as MSI. Those shares rose 6.6 percent to $39.77, the second biggest increase in the S&P 500.
MetroPCS Communications Inc. rose 6.5 percent to $13.92 for the third-biggest gain in the benchmark index. The share-price estimate for the U.S. pay-as-you-go mobile phone company was increased to $20 from $15 at Deutsche Bank and was added to the firm's "short-term buy" list. Phone stocks added 0.7 percent as a group, the most among 10 industries in the S&P 500.
Fed policymakers said improvements in the economy didn't meet the threshold for scaling back their plans to purchase $600 billion in bonds.
"While the economic outlook was seen as improving, members generally felt that the change in the outlook was not sufficient to warrant any adjustments to the asset-purchase program, and some noted that more time was needed to accumulate information on the economy before considering any adjustment," the Fed said in minutes from its Dec. 14 policy meeting, released in Washington.
Stocks retreated even after government data showed earlier that factory orders unexpectedly rose in November, led by demand for capital equipment, signaling that business investment and exports will keep contributing to economic growth.