Stocks reversed course and turned higher in afternoon trading Wednesday as the Standard & Poor's 500 index hit a new intraday high of 1,776.35.
The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones industrial average have been hitting a series of record highs this year as the economy improves, the Federal Reserve keeps up its bond-buying program and as U.S. companies report higher earnings.
In afternoon trading, the Dow was up 0.1% to 15,763 and the S&P 500 gained 0.3% to 1,774. The Nasdaq composite index gained 0.7% to 3,947.
On Wall Street Tuesday, the Dow fell 0.2% to 15,750.67 and the broader S&P 500 closed 0.2% lower at 1,767.69. The Nasdaq composite inched up to 3,919.92.
Retailers began to report third quarter earnings and investors were closely watching to gauge the mood of the U.S. consumer before the holiday shopping season begins in earnest.
Macy's surprised investors Wednesday by easily topping expectations for the third quarter. Macy's shares jumped $4.47, or 9.7%, to $50.80.
Investors have been leery about the health of retailers this year, with so many Americans unwilling to spend as they once had amid a painfully slow economic recovery. Wal-Mart, Nordstrom and Kohl's report their quarterly earnings on Thursday.
Asian stock markets fell after a highly anticipated meeting of Chinese leaders did not announce bold reforms to overhaul a growth model that is running out of steam.
The Shanghai composite index fell 1.8% to 2, 087.75. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index declined 1.9% to 22,463.83. Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 0.2% to 14,567.16.
Communist Party leaders in Beijing pledged to promote market forces in the country's state-dominated economy after the four-day meeting wrapped up late Tuesday. But in a disappointment for reform advocates, they failed to announce dramatic changes such as curbing the dominance of state industry, extending property rights to farmers or relaxing the one child birth control policy.
Major European benchmarks were lower. Britain's FTSE 100 declined 1.4% to 6,630.00 and France's CAC-40 dropped 0.6% to 4,239.94. Germany's DAX shed 0.2% to 9,054.83.
In energy markets, benchmark crude for December delivery was up $1.09 to $94.13 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract plunged $2.1 to $93.04 on Tuesday as market anticipated another increase in U.S. supplies.