NEW YORK Stock indexes surrendered most gains on world markets on Tuesday as investors positioned ahead of this week's meetings of the U.S., British and euro zone central banks, while the dollar climbed from its recent five-week low.
A pick-up in euro zone consumer and business confidence gave stock markets an initial boost as they await policy clues from the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and Bank of England, and Friday's U.S. jobs report for July.
The dollar recovered from losses against the yen after data showed U.S. single-family home prices rose in May, although the pace of gains cooled compared with April.
But as the New York session wore on, stocks struggled to maintain gains and indexes turned flat or negative. Verizon and Mosaic led a selloff in the telecoms and materials sectors.
"We're up against 1,700 on the S&P so it would take a lot to make it move substantially higher," said Jack de Gan, chief investment officer at Harbor Advisory Corp in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. "The nearest things on the horizon are the Fed meeting and the jobs number, so I think we're going to tread water here until that."
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was down 15.27 points, or 0.10 percent, at 15,506.70. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX was down 0.59 points, or 0.04 percent, at 1,684.74. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was up 12.89 points, or 0.36 percent, at 3,612.03.
Verizon (VZ.N) fell 2.2 percent and was the biggest drag on the Dow industrials and the S&P 500.
MSCI's world index .MIWD00000PUS was flat and well off the global day's session high, as was the FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index of top European shares, which closed little changed.
Shares of potash producers and related agriculture companies were volatile after Russia's Uralkali (URKA.MM) dismantled one of the world's largest potash partnerships by pulling out of a venture with Belarus Potash Co.
Uralkali said the decision might lead to a fall in the global potash price to below $300 per ton in the second half of 2013, from $400 per ton now.
In New York trade, Mosaic Co (MOS.N) fell 18.3 percent, Potash Corp (POT.N) slid 18.2 percent and Agrium Inc (AGU.N) fell 5.4 percent.
The U.S. dollar .DXY continued to edge away from Monday's five-week low as investors viewed its sharp drop over the last two weeks as a chance to get back in ahead of the conclusion of the Fed meeting and this week's growth and jobs data. The dollar index .DXY was last up 0.2 percent. The dollar was last up 0.1 percent against the yen.
"I think the Fed is not going to want to rock the boat, but what could change market expectations is the U.S. data that is coming out," said Alvin Tan, FX strategist at Societe Generale.
"It is not only the Fed that is coming up tomorrow, we also have U.S. second-quarter GDP, ISM data and on Friday we have nonfarm payrolls ... if these come in strong, the market is going to start pricing in a faster tapering cycle again."
Currency traders were also watching the Australian dollar, which reached a two-week low after hints from the central bank's governor of another rate cut at next week's Reserve Bank of Australia meeting.
"(RBA) Governor Stevens' comments that the inflation environment remains soft came in on the dovish side at a critical juncture for sentiment," said Christopher Vecchio, Currency Analyst at DailyFX in New York.
In Asia, Japan's Nikkei .N225 bounced up 1.5 percent as the yen eased, though stocks elsewhere in the region finished flat. China's central bank's first injection of funds into money markets since February was balanced by some mixed data.
Commodities stayed under pressure on concerns about China's outlook. Analysts polled by Reuters forecast data on Thursday will show its manufacturing sector may have shrunk in July for the first time in 10 months.
Copper hit a three-week low, gold fell 0.1 percent at $1,325.50 an ounce and U.S. crude lost 1.4 percent to change hands at $103.07 a barrel.
German bund futures were little changed before this week's ECB meeting, where the central bank is expected to give some details on its plans to provide "forward guidance" on rates for the first time.
U.S. Treasuries prices were choppy as traders positioned for the release of second-quarter U.S. economic growth data, the Fed statement and the Treasury's next refunding announcement, all due on Wednesday.
Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes slipped 1/32 in price, with the yield at 2.6025 percent from 2.61 percent late on Monday.