The Dutch state successfully completed a bond auction a day after the government collapsed in a crisis over budget cuts, but investors demanded a slightly higher risk premium as euro zone yields have edged higher.
"Today is all about earnings and Europe," said Paul Nolte, managing director at Dearborn Partners in Chicago. Nolte said investors would look especially to Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) results after the market close.
Earnings from the world's most valuable company could be a stabilizing factor for the Nasdaq and will be dissected after a share swoon raised concerns a gravity-defying rally was over. Apple, down over 10 percent from its closing peak this year, fell 1.2 percent to $564.38.
AT&T Inc's (T.N) profit rose, driven by a rise in wireless margins as it had shelled out less in subsidies to Apple because it sold fewer iPhones. The stock was up 3.5 percent to $31.70.
3M Co's (MMM.N) profit rose 4 percent, helped by a strong performance in its transportation business and growth in the Americas. The stock was up 2.7 percent to $89.46.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 74.89 points, or 0.58 percent, at 13,002.06. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 3.89 points, or 0.28 percent, at 1,370.83. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 0.48 points, or 0.02 percent, at 2,969.97.
The S&P 500 should hold near-term support at 1,340 during the current pullback before extending its rally again, according to Brown Brothers Harriman analysts. The index held at 1,340 during a pullback in early March and coincides with a 23.6 percent retracement of the rally from October.
"People are defensive, obviously they are worried about what's going on in Europe," said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at John Thomas Financial in New York. "We are seeing a lack of buyers coming in to scoop up these oversold levels, which means the caution flag is really up."
The FTSEurofirst European stocks index edged up 0.4 percent Tuesday following the last session's losses, but gains could be fragile as fears over the euro zone debt situation persisted, with Spanish and Dutch debt auctions under the spotlight.
European banks, a key barometer of risk appetite traded erratically throughout the morning. The STXE 600 Bank index last traded down 0.1 percent.
U.S. single-family home prices rose for the first time in 10 months in an encouraging sign the battered sector was starting to stabilize. The S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas gained 0.2 percent in February on a seasonally adjusted basis.
So far, earnings have been solid, with more than 80 percent of S&P 500 companies topping consensus profit estimates as of Monday.
One-time market darling Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) projected slower subscriber growth this quarter for its key U.S. video-streaming service. The stock slid 14.5 percent to $87.
Texas Instruments Inc (TXN.O) forecast second-quarter revenue growth above estimates, signaling the end of a prolonged inventory-related decline in demand. Shares were up nearly 1 percent to $32.20 early Tuesday.