The Dow Jones industrial average edged down 12 points to 12,490 in the first hour of trading, giving up an early gain of 41 points. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index inched up a point to 1,315.
Homebuilder stocks rose after a measure of national home prices rose 1.3 percent in April from March, the first increase in seven months.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index showed home prices rose in 19 of the 20 cities tracked by the survey. That's the second month prices have risen in a majority of U.S. cities. PulteGroup rose 35 cents to $9.58 and Lennar rose 96 cents to $25.54.
News Corp. jumped 7 percent after the company confirmed it is contemplating a breakup into two companies, separating its publishing and entertainment businesses. The sprawling media empire includes The Wall Street Journal, Fox News Channel, and newspapers in Britain and Australia. The stock jumped $1.50 to $21.59.
Apollo Group, a for-profit education company which operates the University of Phoenix, soared 10 percent after the company reported third-quarter income that was far larger than analysts were expecting. The stock rose $3.27 to $35.75.
In other trading, the Nasdaq composite index rose six to 2,842.
U.S. markets were held in check by more worrisome developments in Europe. Spain's borrowing costs rose in a pair of short-term debt auctions, the latest sign that investors are hesitant to lend the country money. Spain's main stock index plunged 4 percent, the second day of steep losses, and the yield on its benchmark 10-year government bond rose to 6.69 percent.
The slump in Spanish financial markets came a day after 28 Spanish banks were downgraded by Moody's, a credit rating agency.
Stock markets slumped in the U.S. and Europe on Monday after Spain's formal request for help for its banking systems left many questions unanswered, including how much money it would ask for. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 138 points.