The Dow and the S&P 500 fell in a volatile session on Tuesday as fears that a $1 trillion bailout for Europe won't solve the region's deep-seated problems blunted an improving U.S. economic picture.
In a session marked by little news and low volume compared with recent days, investors dumped stocks in afternoon trading as worries about Europe's ability to contain Greece's fiscal problems crept back into the market.
Gold hit a new all-time high above $1,230 an ounce as investors sought the perceived safety of the precious metal, while falling crude oil prices hit shares of energy companies like Exxon Mobil Corp . The Arca Gold Bugs Index<.HUI>, which measures the performance of 16 gold miners' stocks, surged 6 percent.
There's still a good amount of skepticism about whether or not the support plan works, whether or not European governments are ready to do the hard part of it and implement this austerity program, said Frank Lesh, a futures analyst and broker at FuturePath Trading LLC in Chicago.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dropped 36.88 points, or 0.34 percent, to end at 10,748.26. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> fell 3.94 points, or 0.34 percent, to 1,155.79. But the Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> edged up just 0.64 of a point, or 0.03 percent, to close at 2,375.31.
DISNEY DROPS LATE
Shares of Walt Disney Co gained 1.3 percent to end regular trading at $35.76, ahead of quarterly results.
After the closing bell, Disney's stock slid 2.9 percent in extended-hours trading following the release of its quarterly results. Disney's earnings slightly beat Wall Street's forecasts. But analysts said the company's media network division fell short of expectations with operating income of $1.3 billion, compared with estimates of $1.43 billion. For details, see
The entertainment and media company's performance is an indication of the strength of consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of economic activity in the United States.
ALL THAT GLITTERS
During the regular trading session, Goldcorp Inc , a Canadian gold miner traded in New York, rose 6.3 percent to $46.20 as gold jumped nearly 3 percent to an all-time high at $1,233.65 an ounce.
U.S. crude oil futures ended lower, with crude for June delivery falling 43 cents, or 0.56 percent, to settle at $76.37 a barrel. That hurt energy shares such as Exxon, which fell 0.5 percent $64.46.
Helping Nasdaq and the biotech sector, Gilead Sciences authorized a program, for the second time this year, to repurchase up to $5 billion in common stock through May 2013.
Gilead's stock rose 2.3 percent to $39.26, while the NYSE Arca Biotech index <.BTK> gained 0.5 percent.
Earnings season continued, with Church & Dwight Co posting a first-quarter profit that beat expectations.
However, the company, whose consumer products include Arm & Hammer baking soda and Trojan condoms, also gave a weak second-quarter earnings outlook. Its stock fell 3.4 percent to $67.01.
Overseas, Toyota Motor reported fourth-quarter earnings that comfortably beat forecasts. Toyota's U.S.-listed stock rose 0.9 percent to $77.46.
About 10.47 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, compared with last year's estimated daily average of 9.65 billion.
Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a ratio of about 5 to 4, while on the Nasdaq, roughly three stocks rose for every two that fell.
(Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Jan Paschal)