The Nasdaq was propped up by Apple on Tuesday following a report that the iPhone maker was planning car and battery production, while the Dow and the S&P 500 slipped on weak consumer confidence and home sales readings.
Shares of Apple Inc were up 3.8% in early trading after Reuters exclusively reported that the company was moving forward with self-driving car technology and was targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology.
U.S. home sales fell more than expected in November, while consumer confidence unexpectedly declined this month following a spike in U.S. infections and deaths.
The data added to concerns of further economic disruption from a new coronavirus variant raging in Britain that has pushed the country into effective COVID-19 quarantine.
Meanwhile, investors digested the passing of a much-awaited $892 billion relief bill, which is set to inject fresh liquidity into the economy.
"While the virus news continues to overshadow from time to time, the market is probably going to resume its upward trend, and that's probably because relief is coming for the economy," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.
"With two-and-a-half trading days before Christmas holidays, I think stocks will probably creep their way higher."
Trading activity is expected to be subdued in the last two weeks of the year.
At 10:26 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 117.59 points, or 0.39%, at 30,098.86, the S&P 500 was down 3.48 points, or 0.09%, at 3,691.44, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 57.80 points, or 0.45%, at 12,800.31.
Ten of the 11 major S&P subsectors were trading lower, with technology stocks the sole gainers.
Electric-car maker Tesla Inc fell 2.6% after slumping more than 6% in its first day of trading as part of the S&P 500 on Monday.
Amgen Inc fell 2.5% and was among the top drags on the Dow, after it said its experimental asthma drug tezepelumab developed with British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc failed to meet the main goal of a late-stage asthma study.
Peloton Interactive Inc jumped 12.9% as brokerages raised their price targets on the stock, a day after the exercise bike maker said it would buy peer Precor in a $420 million deal to boost its U.S. manufacturing capacity and market share for fitness products.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.10-to-1 ratio on the NYSE, and by a 1.45-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 12 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 240 new highs and 5 new lows.