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Stocks close mostly higher but cut early gains

Stocks came under pressure late in the day again Tuesday as the major indexes cut earlier gains and closed mixed.

A strong early rally faded as investors remain jittery about global growth prospects and volatility continues to whiplash the market.

The Standard & Poor's 500 and Nasdaq composite index were off their highs but were able to close higher, snapping a three-day losing streak. But the Dow stumbled, giving back all of its early gains as it closed lower for a fourth straight day.

The S&P 500 rose 2.96 points, or 0.2% to 1877.70, after rising as high as 1898.71.The Nasdaq gained 13.52, or 0.3% to 4227.17.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 5.88 points, or 0.04% to 16,315.19, after rising as high as 16,463.67.

The market got an early lift from positive comments about the health of the U.S. economy from big bank CEOs at JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

Jamie Dimon, the CEO at JPMorgan, says despite weakening growth abroad, the U.S. economy is an "exception." The domestic economy is showing signs of strengthening, he says.

Investors are looking to corporate earnings and forecasts as stocks have been hammered lately amid fear that the growth slowdown in places like the Eurozone and China would infect the U.S. economy in a major way, says JJ Kinahan, chief strategist of TD Ameritrade.

"The CEO guidance was encouraging," says Kinahan, adding that Intel's earnings report after the closing bell will also be key. "What the CEOs are saying is, 'Listen, markets go up and down but the underpinnings of the economy is still good and we are still seeing growth. We are going to be OK.'"

He adds that a negative "change" will occur if CEOs start to say that " things are getting worse."

Still, Kinahan acknowledges that the stock market has taken a big hit in recent days, and he would be more confident that the market was out of the woods if the benchmark S&P 500 stock index could regain the key 1900 level as well as its average price of 1905 over the past 200 days. On Monday, the S&P 500 closed below its so-called 200-day average for the first time since November 2012, a move to the downside that suggests the uptrend may be in danger of being broken.

"That will be a major test for the market," he says. The market, of course, has suffered severe late-day selloffs in recent sessions. And until that trend ends, the market will still be viewed as risky.

Investors are "reassessing" value, given the global growth fears out there and the shift in Federal Reserve policy towards less rather than more stimulus. Kinahan is in the Wall Street camp that says this downturn will be no worse than a 6% to 9% drop. The S&P 500 started the day 6.8% below its Sept. 18 closing high of 2011.36.

On Monday the Dow plunged 223 points -- 1.4%. Hours later the Nikkei of Japan nosedived 2.4%.

The once high-flying German DAX -- still far off its all-time high of 10,029 reached this summer -- had a good day, climbing 0.4%