U.S. stocks edged lower in late-afternoon trading Tuesday, led by declines in banks and technology companies. Real estate stocks notched the biggest gains. Bond yields fell and the price of gold rose as investors monitored heightened geopolitical tensions. Oil prices recovered after an early slide.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 7 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,349 as of 3:13 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 38 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,619. The Nasdaq composite index lost 23 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,857. Small-company stocks bucked the downward trend. The Russell 2000 index edged up 8 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,375.
THE QUOTE: “One of our predictions this year is we’re going to have higher volatility,” said Bob Doll, chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management. “It’s to be expected with all the economic uncertainties, all the geopolitical uncertainties.”
RED FLAGS: North Korea said there could be “catastrophic consequences” after the U.S. ordered the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its battle group to waters off the Korean Peninsula. Nerves were already on edge with U.S.-South Korea war games underway, following recent ballistic missile launches by the North that have rattled neighboring countries. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Moscow to meet with Russian officials about the Syria civil war. Wall Street’s so-called “fear index,” known as the VIX, surged 7.7 percent.
TREASURY YIELDS: Government bonds also reflected growing unease among investors. The yield on the benchmark U.S. 10-year note fell to 2.30 percent from 2.36 percent late Monday. As bond prices rise, yields drop.
BUMPED: United Continental slid 2.3 percent amid growing public outrage over a video that showed police in Chicago dragging a passenger off an overbooked flight. The stock fell $1.62 to $69.90.
DIM OUTLOOK: MTS Systems slumped 10.8 percent after the maker of mechanical testing systems issued disappointing earnings and sales forecasts for the year. The stock shed $5.80 to $48.
ROUGH ROAD AHEAD: Hub Group sank 14 percent after the transportation management company forecast weak first-quarter results, citing high truck capacity that’s led to big price cuts. The stock lost $6.62 to $40.63.
BAG IT: Supervalu climbed 5 percent after the supermarket chain agreed to buy grocery distributor Unified Grocers for $375 million, most of which will go to pay Unified Grocers’ debt. Shares in Supervalu added 19 cents to $3.98.
CLIP IT: RetailMeNot vaulted 48.7 percent after the online coupon company agreed to be acquired by payment and marketing company Harland Clark Holdings for $11.60 a share, or $555 million. RetailMeNot picked up $3.78 to $11.53.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany’s DAX was down 0.5 percent, while France’s CAC 40 was 0.1 percent lower. Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.2 percent. Earlier in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index slipped 0.3 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng sank 0.7 percent. South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.4 percent. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent.
ENERGY: Rebounding from an early slide, benchmark crude oil rose 32 cents to close at $53.40 a barrel in New York, its sixth gain in a row. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, added 25 cents to close at $56.23 a barrel. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline was little changed at $1.76 a gallon. Heating oil also held steady at $1.65 a gallon. Natural gas slid 9 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $3.15 per 1,000 cubic feet.
METALS: Gold, which is often sought out by investors in times of global uncertainty, rose $20.30, or 1.6 percent, to $1,274.20 an ounce. Silver gained 34 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $18.25 an ounce. Copper was little changed at $2.61 a pound.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 109.69 yen from 110.94 yen late Monday. The euro rose to $1.0608 from $1.0596.