The Standard & Poor's 500 Index swung between gains and losses more than 40 times as Bernanke fended off congressional criticism of the $700 billion rescue proposal and investors weighed the benefits of Warren Buffett's $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Washington Mutual Inc. tumbled 24 percent, Citigroup Inc. sank 5.2 percent and Morgan Stanley lost 11 percent.
Two stocks retreated for each that gained on the New York Stock Exchange. The S&P 500 slipped 2.23 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,185.99. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 29, or 0.3 percent, to 10,825.17. The Nasdaq Composite Index increased 2.35, or 0.1 percent, to 2,155.68, led by a rally in chipmakers.
The S&P 500, which yesterday capped its biggest two-day slump in six years, extended its decline this week to 5.5 percent. Less than 1.1 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange, about half the level at the same time a week ago.
Earlier, Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 0.2 percent to 12,115.03. The country's markets were shut yesterday. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 1.2 percent, led by National Australia Bank Ltd., the nation's biggest by assets.
Also, U.K. stocks fell for a third day, led by banks. By the close, the FTSE 100 was down 0.8 per cent, or 40.6 points, to 5,095.6.
Russia's benchmark Micex Index climbed 3 percent to 1,103.77 in Moscow and the government's 30-year dollar bonds increased for the first time in three days, lowering the yield by 5 basis points to 6.92 percent.
The Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index, or Sensex, jumped as much as 2 percent, helping lift the MSCI Emerging Markets Index as much as 0.6 percent to 834.85.