New York - The Dow and the S&P 500 fell for a third straight day on Tuesday, dropping from record levels in a broad decline as investors took profits amid signs of a weak holiday shopping season.
Retail and consumer discretionary stocks were among the weakest of the day. Amazon.com slipped 2 percent to $384.66 and was one of the biggest drags on the S&P 500. The S&P retail index shed 0.8 percent after the holiday shopping season got off to a tepid start.
Earlier-than-usual online holiday discounts were expected to have dampened Cyber Monday sales in the United States. Still, data firm comScore forecast US online sales to have hit $2 billion on “Cyber Monday”, the highest since the firm began tracking such information.
“Retail sales have been mixed, and while I suspect they will be strong overall at the end of the season, right now, investors are looking for reasons to sell after the amazing returns we've seen over the past several weeks,” said Joseph Tanious, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management in New York.
Equities have rallied recently, with the S&P 500 gaining for eight straight weeks and hitting a series of record highs. The benchmark index is up 25.9 percent so far this year.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 94.15 points, or 0.59 percent, to end at 15,914.62. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index declined 5.75 points, or 0.32 percent, to finish at 1,795.15. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 8.06 points, or 0.20 percent, to close at 4,037.20.
The S&P consumer discretionary sector index fell 0.9 percent, despite stronger-than-expected November auto sales. Ford Motor shares slid 2.9 percent to $16.56 while General Motors dropped 2.5 percent to $38.14. Analysts said the declines in the automakers' stocks were linked to concerns that pent-up demand would no longer support the pace of sales gains beyond 2014.
Bucking the sector's weakness, Tesla Motors jumped 16.5 percent to $144.70 on heavy volume after Morgan Stanley named it a “top pick.” Tesla said on Monday that Germany's vehicle regulatory agency said it planned “no further measures” after reviewing fires in Tesla cars in the United States and Mexico.
Investors speculated that the Federal Reserve may move to trim its stimulus earlier than some had anticipated. Stronger-than-expected data on manufacturing and construction spending on Monday underscored views that the Fed may begin scaling back its stimulus of $85-billion in monthly bond purchases sooner than expected.
Many analysts still forecast the announcement will take place in March, but investors will be closely watching this week's jobs figures on Friday for trends that could influence the Fed's thinking.
In an interview, John Williams, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, said he expected the stimulus programme to end sometime in 2014, and that he would be disappointed if it was still in effect in December 2014.
In company news, Yum Brands fell 2.7 percent to $75.61 after it said November sales at established KFC restaurants in China failed to grow despite a successful promotion. It forecast a return to earnings-per-share growth in 2014.
Apple Inc rose 2.7 percent to $566.32 after UBS upgraded the iPhone maker's stock to “buy”.
About 5.28 billion shares traded on all US platforms, according to BATS exchange data.
Decliners outnumbered advancers on the New York Stock Exchange by a ratio of about 3 to 2, while on the Nasdaq, nearly eight stocks fell for every five that rose. - Reuters