U.S. stocks trimmed early gains to close lower Tuesday, as investors await the start of first-quarter earnings season. Aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. is set to start the parade of quarterly financial results with its release on Wednesday.
In trading Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) dipped 5.43 points, or 0.03 percent, to close at 17,875.42. The Standard & Poor's 500 (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) lost 4.29 points, or 0.21 percent, to end at 2,076.33. The Nasdaq composite (INDEXSP:.INX) fell 7.08 points, or 0.14 percent, to finish at 4,910.23.
Data Tuesday showed U.S. consumer credit, which estimates changes in the dollar amounts of outstanding loans mainly used to purchase consumer goods, rose 5.6 percent for a gain of $15.5 billion in February, the Federal Reserve said Tuesday in its monthly report. This was the fastest pace of growth since October.
Economists are looking ahead to the Federal Open Market Committee's minutes from its March meeting, released Wednesday at 2 p.m. EDT.
Dow component American Express was the largest laggard in the blue-chip index Tuesday, falling more than 1.6 percent to close at $78.33. The Dow rallied as much as 100 points in morning trading after the Labor Department said U.S. job openings rose to a 14-year high in February; however, the index failed to hold on to the day’s gains in the last hour of trading, despite a 3 percent jump in oil prices.
“We’re going to continue to see more volatility in the financial markets, just like we’ve seen in the last quarter, particularly around releases of employment, wages and inflation data,” said Mike Baele, managing director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Portland, Oregon. “The Fed has indicated it's going to be data dependent, so whatever the particular economic release of the day is, people are going to read the tea leaves to predict how that’s going to influence the Fed.”
Oil prices bounced back and extended the previous day’s gains Tuesday after the U.S. government raised its forecasts for global demand growth and lowered forecasts for U.S. crude oil production, the Energy Information Administration said in its monthly report. West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices, gained more than 3.5 percent to $53.98 a barrel, for May 15 delivery, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the benchmark for global oil prices, added 88 cents to $59.27 a barrel, for May 15 delivery, on the London ICE Futures Exchange.
The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback against major world currencies, rose around 1 percent to $97.94.