The Standard & Poor's 500 Index closed little changed as consumer shares led an advance, offsetting fresh signs of weakness in crude oil and corporate earnings after economic data in China helped ease some investor concern over a hard landing there.
In contrast to U.S. shares, European and Asian stocks rose amid speculation of further Chinese state aid after a report showed gross domestic product in the world's second-largest economy expanded 6.9 percent in 2015, just shy of the government's 7 percent target, and the least since 1990.
Crude continued to fall Tuesday, with West Texas Intermediate futures losing 3.3 percent. The International Energy Agency trimmed its 2016 estimates for global oil demand amid weakness in China. Markets could "drown in oversupply," sending prices even lower as demand growth slows and Iran revives exports with the end of sanctions, according to the agency.
The S&P 500's renewed selling sent the gauge toward a technical signal that indicates it's oversold. Its relative strength index, which measures whether gains or losses have been too fast to sustain, fell to 30, a threshold indicating a rebound may materialize.
The last time the RSI slipped below that level was on Jan. 13, the day before a 1.7 percent rally. The time prior to that was on Aug. 25, when the S&P 500 hit a bottom and rallied 6.5 percent over the next three days.
The S&P 500 trades at 15.2 times the forecast earnings of its members, in line with the index's average of the past four years. It's more expensive than developed markets in Europe, where the Stoxx 600 Index trades for 14.1 times estimated earnings.
The equity benchmark is down almost 12 percent from its record set last May, and has slumped 9.1 percent since the Federal Reserve raised interest rates last month for the first time since 2006. Meanwhile, a measure of volatility has jumped the most since a selloff in August which sent the S&P 500 into its first correction in four years.
While investors fret over the impact China's slowdown will have on global growth, the International Monetary Fund cut its world growth outlook as the commodities slump and political gridlock push Brazil deeper into recession, plunging oil prices hobble Mideast crude producers and the rising dollar curbs U.S. prospects.
The fund also said risks to the global outlook remain tilted to the downside, with the world facing three big adjustments: the emerging-market slowdown, China's shift to growth driven less by exports and manufacturing and the Fed's gradual exit from ultra-low interest rates.
U.S. data today showed confidence among homebuilders was unchanged at the start of year, indicating the residential real estate market was sustaining the steady progress made in 2015. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index held at 60 in January after the prior month was revised down a point, figures from the Washington-based group showed.
Corporate earnings are gathering more attention with investors weighing the health of the U.S. economy. Analysts project profits for index members fell 7 percent in the fourth quarter.