NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- January offered up an apology to discouraged investors.
Unlike 2011, when markets spiked and sunk several hundred points each day but ultimately closed out the year relatively flat, all three indexes mostly climbed higher throughout the month with occasional dips.
The Nasdaq climbed 8% in January and the S&P 500 and Dow each added 3.4% and 4.4%. Absent, so far in 2012, are the heart wrenching daily drops and pops in stocks.
Even with a choppy trading day Tuesday, it was the best January for the S&P and Dow since 1997 and since 2001 for the Nasdaq.
U.S. stocks traded in a narrow range Tuesday, after worse-than-expected U.S. housing and manufacturing data tempered the modest enthusiasm over Europe's progress on a new fiscal pact.
The Dow Jones industrial average () slid 21 points, or 0.2%.The S&P 500 ( ) shed 0.6 points, or 0.1%. The Nasdaq added 2 points, or or 0.1%.
Investors parsed through a mixed bag of earnings from Exxon Mobil (Fortune 500), UPS ( , Fortune 500), Pfizer ( , Fortune 500) and Mattell ( , Fortune 500). But weak reads on Midwest manufacturing and home prices were the main drivers pushing the market down from an initial boost.,
Stocks got an early boost after European Union leaders agreed Monday to strengthen a financial firewall and most members of the 27-nation group will sign a new fiscal compact. But the first summit of the year ended without new solutions for the debt crisis in Greece.
Without a deal with private-sector creditors, the country jeopardizes its access to bailout funds, and might not be able to make a €14 billion debt payment that's due March 20.
"There's positive news coming out of Europe, but it's still very tenuous with Greece," said Jeffrey Phillips, chief investment officer of Rehmann Financial. "Every time we see something positive there, we seem to see it reverse in four or five days."
U.S. stocks recovered most of their lost ground Monday afternoon.
World markets: European stocks closed posting solid gains. Britain's FTSE 100 ( ) added 0.8%, the DAX ( ) in Germany gained 1.1% and France's CAC 40 ( ) climbed 1.5%.
Meanwhile, Asian markets ended modestly higher. The Shanghai Composite () ticked up 0.3%, the Hang Seng ( ) in Hong Kong added 1.1% and Japan's Nikkei ( ) rose 0.1%.
Later in the day, the January edition of the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index is set for release, as is the Congressional Budget Office's 10-year budget and economic outlook.
The Consumer Confidence Index is expected to hit 67 in January, up from 64.5 in the month prior, according to a survey of analysts by Briefing.com.
Companies: RadioShack ( , Fortune 500) shares plunged 29%, after the electronics retailer warned late Monday that its fourth quarter earnings will fall far short of expectations.
Exxon Mobil shares dropped 2%, after the oil giant reported its quarterly earnings climbed to $9.4 billion on revenue of $121.6 billion.
Mattel shares closed up 1.3%, after the toymaker beat Wall Street estimates on quarterly earnings and raised its annual dividend 35%. Worldwide sales of Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels and American Girl toys posted solid gains, although revenue overall fell short of analysts' expectations.
Mattel's top competitor, Hasbro (), will release its corporate results Monday.
Pfizer was hurt in the fourth quarter by the loss of its patent for Lipitor, a drug for treating high cholesterol. The drug maker beat Wall Street expectations on earnings and revenue, but its shares slide 1.3%
UPS shares dropped 0.9%, even though the courier beat forecasts on earnings but fell short on revenue. In a statement, Kurt Kuehn, UPS's chief financial officer, said the company expects 2012 to bring "mixed economic growth around the world."
Online retailer Amazon (Fortune 500) reported results after the bell Tuesday, missing analysts' estimates on revenues but beating profit expectations. Shares dropped nearly 9% in trading after the close.,
Oil for March delivery dropped 37 cents to $98.39 a barrel.
Gold futures for April delivery rose $7.40 to $1,740.40 an ounce.
Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury moved higher, pushing the yield down to 1.80% from 1.84% late Monday.
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