Shares rose on Wednesday, but gave up most of their gains at the close of trade, even after the US and China signed a highly anticipated Phase 1 trade agreement.
Most of the details were already known and investors expected some speeding on the way to signing the second phase.
The Nasdaq Composite closed just above the flatline at 9,258.70. The S&P 500 ended the day up 0.2% at 3,289.29, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 90.55 points or 0.3% to close at 29,030.22. At its session high, the Dow rose 187.92 points, or 0.7%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both rose 0.5%.
The U.S.-China trade agreement includes provisions to curb intellectual property theft and prevent technology transfers. It also increases Chinese purchases of US products. Investors had been eagerly awaiting the signing of the so-called Phase 1 trade agreement as the conflict between the world's largest economies has been dragging on for almost two years.
"The risk in the market is that the trading situation will deteriorate and not stay as it is," said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird. "By definition, if it improves, it doesn't worsen and that's a good thing."
However, the agreement does not remove existing US tariffs on Chinese imports, and questions remain regarding enforcement of the agreement's provisions. The business is also rated "fragile" by some analysts who believe additional levies could be introduced.
US President Donald Trump speaks on Wednesday, January 15, 2020, during a signing ceremony for the US-China Phase 1 trade agreement in Washington DC.
Zach Gibson | Getty Images
Sentiment was earlier supported by comments from the White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow, who said the Trump administration would announce further tax cuts later this year.
Wall Street also kept an eye on Corporate America when the winning season was in full swing. Bank of America reported quarterly results that exceeded analysts' expectations as bond trading earnings increased.
Goldman Sachs had sales in the quarter that exceeded estimates. BlackRock, UnitedHealth and PNC Financial also posted quarterly results that exceeded analysts' expectations.
To date, around 30 S&P 500 companies have published their quarterly figures. According to FactSet data, 82% of these companies made better-than-expected profits.
Expectations for corporate earnings were positive in the reporting period. FactSet estimates that the S&P 500's fourth quarter earnings were down 2% year over year.
Mark Haefele, Global Chief Investment Officer at UBS GWM, is however more optimistic about the earnings season.
"We see the coming reporting season, after a period of weak earnings growth for US companies, is a turning point that should push stocks up this year, although we believe the potential for further multiple expansion is modest," he said in a note. "As a result, we have slightly raised our forecast for US EPS growth this year to 6%."
In other corporate news, Target stock fell more than 6.5% after the retailer announced disappointing sales in the same store for the holidays. Target said that vacation sales in the same store increased only 1.4% compared to 5.7% growth over the previous year.
—CNBC's Silvia Amaro contributed to this report.
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, Willie Delwiche's last name was misspelled.