Several other companies that have recently suffered big losses also said they will buy back more stock, including health care products giant Johnson & Johnson and insurer Allstate. Bent Crude was down 2.3 percent to $58 and change. The Empire State Manufacturing Survey's headline general business conditions index, aggregated by the Federal Reserve Bank of NY, fell 12.4 points to 10.9 in December, weaker than analysts' expectations of around 20.6.
The S&P 500 index inched up 0.22 points to 2,546.16. FedEx slumped nearly 5 percent as of 4:30 p.m.in NY, after a lower profit forecast stoked doubts about the strength of global trade.
Privately-owned housing starts in November were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,256,000, a decline of 3.6 percent year on year, according to the Commerce Department on Tuesday.
Tobacco stocks moved sharply lower over the course of the trading session, dragging the NYSE Arca Tobacco Index down by 4.2 percent.
The S&P 500 is headed down 7.8% in December.
FED DECISION: The Fed is widely expected to raise its short-term interest rate after a meeting ends Wednesday.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 82.66 points to 23,675.64. Natural gas jumped 8.8 percent to $3.84 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Third Canadian detained in China
Dahlin, who was himself detained and repeatedly interrogated in China for his work with a human rights organization. Three underlines how ruthless China can be", he said.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.14-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.43-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
"We're facing the biggest December fall in USA stocks since 1931 and this is striking and worrying at the same time", said Chris Bailey, European strategist at worldwide financial services firm Raymond James.
The pullback seen yesterday afternoon pulled the Dow down to its lowest closing level in over eight months, while the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 dropped to their lowest closing levels in over a year. Many hoped that a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping would help improve the outlook because he was expected to call for more market reforms.
Meanwhile, a blog post from ZeroHedge reported Wall Street's biggest ever rotation into bonds: "Wall Street Turns Apocalyptic: 'We Just Had The Biggest Ever Rotation Into Bonds.'".
Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 9/32 in price to yield 2.8264 percent, from 2.857 percent late on December 17.
Volume on US exchanges was 9.18 billion shares, compared with the 8.06 billion-share average over the last 20 trading days.
The dollar extended its declines against major currencies ahead of the Fed meeting. The Nikkei 225 in Japan lost 1.8 percent, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong dropped 1 percent and South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.4 percent.