NEW YORK, March 19 (Xinhua) -- U.S. stocks closed mixed in a volatile trading day on Tuesday, with the Dow eking out tiny gains amid uncertainties in Cyprus after its parliament rejected a proposed tax on bank deposits.
The blue-chip Dow edged up 3.76 points, or 0.03 percent, to 14, 455.82. The broader S&P 500 shed 3.76 points, or 0.24 percent, to 1,548.34. The tech-heavy Nasdaq slid 8.49 points, or 0.26 percent, to 3,229.10.
The main stock indices opened higher, bouncing back from a two- session drop, as U.S. building permits in February came in better than expected and investors' fears over the Cyprus crisis eased.
However, the market began to plunge sharply around midday trading, hit by concerns about a possible default of Cyprus.
The stocks rebounded in the afternoon although Cypriot lawmakers rejected a plan to levy on bank deposits to meet the terms of a eurozone bailout deal. The market also gained some strength when investors took the dip as a buying opportunity.
On the economic front, U.S. privately-owned housing starts in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 917,000, which was 0.8 percent above the revised January estimate of 910, 000 and 27.7 percent above the year-ago level, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, building permits, an indication of future demand, rose 4.6 percent from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000 in February, the Commerce Department added.
The figures showed a sustained recovery in the U.S. real estate market and boosted homebuilders' shares.
In corporate news, Citigroup shares slipped 0.97 percent to 45. 79 U.S. dollars a share after the banking giant announced on Monday that it had agreed, subject to court approval, to settle a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of investors who purchased Citigroup debt and preferred stock during the period of May 11, 2006, through Nov. 28, 2008.
The market is also eyeing the two-day policy meeting of Federal Open Market Committee starting Tuesday. In light of the Cyprus crisis and a volatile global recovery, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is expected to continue to offer his support for massive asset purchases.
In other markets, gold futures settled higher for a fourth straight session as uncertainties in Cyprus drove investors into the safe-haven precious metal. Gold for April delivery gained 6.70 dollars to settle at 1,611.30 dollars an ounce.
The dollar rose sharply against the euro on Cyprus uncertainties, while the Japanese yen trimmed early losses when it weakened in early trading against the greenback as Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa left office.
In late New York trading, the euro dropped to 1.2874 dollars from 1.2947 of the previous session and the British pound climbed to 1.5101 from 1.5099 dollars. The dollar bought 95.10 Japanese yen, lower than 95.44 in the previous session.
Light, sweet crude for April delivery slid 1.58 dollars, or 1. 68 percent to settle at 92.16 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Brent crude for April delivery lost 2.06 dollars, or 1.88 percent, to close at 107.45 dollars a barrel.