Stocks end mixed; Microsoft tops sales forecast

A split decision on Wall Street Tuesday as lackluster earnings weighed on investor sentiment. The Dow fell 221 points. The S&P 500 shed 10 points. BUT The Nasdaq rose 72 points.

For investors – the big theme again: COVID-19, says Max Wolff of Multivariate.

"I think the big story, unfortunately, is still COVID. And I think the news there is quite bad hospitalizations and new case counts - it's pretty problematic. And we haven't really seen any sort of great sign that things are decelerating in terms of COVID. And I think markets are gonna have a hard time catching a bid before the election unless there's good news on the COVID front."

Tech stocks rallied on Advanced Micro Devices' $35 billion deal to to buy fellow chipmaker Xilinx, in AMD's biggest takeover in attempt to battle main rival Intel.

Caterpillar suffered a quarterly earnings drop. Sales of its heavy-duty equipment were down in most parts of the world but Caterpillar said it would've been worse if it wasn't for China's fast economic recovery and robust housing activity in the U.S.

3M continued to get a boost for demand for its N95 face masks. The conglomerate topped quarterly sales and profit forecasts.

A higher-than-expected profit at Harley-Davidson - even though motorcycle sales remained under pressure last quarter. Sales, however, were not as bad as feared and that was good enough for investors. The stock soared 22 percent.

After the close, Microsoft beat sales estimates as the software giant continued to benefit from a global shift to work and learning from home.