Alcoa was the strongest blue-chip stock, rising 2.9. The company's quarterly results included a prediction for a deficit in the global aluminum supply in 2012.
But European markets finished lower after the leaders of Germany and France turned up the pressure on Greece and its international creditors, amid building worries that the euro zone's Greek bailout was unraveling.
Auto stocks started the session strong but finished mixed as the Detroit auto show kicked off. Ford Motor rose 0.8% after disclosing plans to begin selling a plug-in, hybrid gasoline-electric version of its redesigned Fusion midsize sedan later this year. General Motors lost 0.4%
A handful of technology stocks also posted gains Brocade Communications, which makes switches and software to connect corporate servers and data-storage systems, received first-round bids from potential buyers. Brocade added 6.5%. Competitor Juniper Networks was one of the top stocks in the S&P 500, rising 5.4%.
Light, sweet crude closed at $101.21 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.