US stocks slashed steep early losses in the last hour of trade Thursday to end moderately lower, amid short covering and hopes that EU leaders would agree measures to stem the eurozone crisis.
Falls in tech stocks ruled the day as the US Supreme Court's ruling in favor of the Obama administration's controversial health care law had little overall effect on trade.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 24.75 points (0.20 percent) at 12,602.26, after having been off by more that 170 points during the session.
The S&P 500 index lost 2.81 (0.21 percent) to 1,329.04, while the tech-rich Nasdaq lost 25.83 (0.90 percent) to 2,849.49.
The Dow was more than one percent lower earlier, amid worries of deep rifts in the EU leaders' crisis summit in Brussels.
The late surge was likely tied to investor moves related to the end of the quarter on Friday, said Peter Cardillo of Rockwell Global Capital.
"Tomorrow is the last day of the quarter and you might have some short covering ahead of that," he said.
The healthcare sector ended down 0.31 percent, as the court's ruling against major Republican-backed challenges to the White House's landmark health care reforms had a mixed effect on different components of the giant industry.
"The law is not bullish for corporate America, (bringing) higher healthcare costs," said Mace Blicksilver of Marblehead Asset Management.
However, he added, "It's very beneficial for hospitals, less beneficial for those managed care companies."
Hospital shares rose 1.7 percent, insurers were up 0.7 percent, drug manufacturer and drug delivery/pharmacy stocks were down 0.1 percent, and healthcare plans were virtually unchanged following the court's decision.
Drugmakers were mixed: Johnson & Johnson gained 0.2 percent, Pfizer was 0.4 percent off, and Merck gained 0.4 percent.
JPMorgan Chase shares fell 2.5 percent on a report that its losses on a mismanaged derivatives trading operation could hit $9 billion.
News Corp shares sank 1.4 percent after it confirmed it would split into two separate businesses.
On the Nasdaq, eBay fell 3.6 percent, Seagate 5.2 percent, Intel 1.5 percent and Facebook 2.7 percent.
Bond prices pushed higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.58 percent from 1.62 percent Wednesday, while the 30-year yield fell to 2.67 percent from 2.69 percent.
Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.