S&P financials index and the S&P basic materials index each gained 0.9 percent.
But Google shares rose 4.8 percent to above $736 in extended-hours trading after the world's No. 1 search engine reported a jump in fourth-quarter revenue. Shares of IBM added more than 4 percent to trade above $204 after the world's largest technology services company reported earnings and revenue that beat estimates.
"We expected Q4 for many tech vendors would be weak because we were expecting a lot of companies sitting on their wallets until it became clear what was going to become of the fiscal cliff," Forrester analyst Andrew Bartels said about IBM.
"Given the fact it's Q4 and the cloud of fiscal cliff within it, it's a positive indication that especially tech software will be doing better in the next couple of months."
During the regular session, shares of blue chips Travelers, DuPont, and Verizon Communications rose following earnings.
Travelers rose 2.2 percent to $77.95, a closing high. DuPont's shares gained 1.8 percent to $47.82. Verizon's stock rose 0.9 percent to $42.94.
Thomson Reuters data through Tuesday morning showed that of the 74 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings so far, 62.2 percent have topped expectations, roughly even with the 62 percent average since 1994, but below the 65 percent average over the past four quarters.
Overall, S&P 500 fourth-quarter earnings are forecast to have risen 2.6 percent. That estimate is above the 1.9 percent forecast from the start of earnings season, but well below the 9.9 percent fourth-quarter earnings forecast from Oct. 1, the data showed.
U.S.-listed shares of Research in Motion rallied 13 percent to $17.90 a day after its chief executive said the Canadian company may consider strategic alliances with other companies after the launch of devices powered by RIM's new BlackBerry 10 operating system.
About 6.2 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, below last year's daily average of about 6.45 billion shares.
On the NYSE, advancers outnumbered decliners by a ratio of roughly 9 to 4. On the Nasdaq, five stocks rose for every three that fell.
Signs of improved