The rebound was carried by bank and brokerage shares, with the Standard & Poor's financial sector registering its second-biggest percentage gain in three-and-a-half years.
The Dow industrials clawed back nearly 300 points in the final 45 minutes to finish the session down by less than 16 points. Blue chips' brief burst into the black in the final minutes brought a raucous cheer from traders on the New York Stock Exchange floor.
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 15.69 points, or 0.12 percent, to end at 12,845.78. But the Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 4.57 points, or 0.32 percent, to finish at 1,411.27. And the Nasdaq Composite Index was down 7.76 points, or 0.32 percent, at 2,451.07.