The Dow and Nasdaq slipped on Tuesday as a plunge in pending home sales increased concerns about the housing market a day after stocks rose to 15-month highs.
An industry report that showed a 16 percent fall in sales contracts for previously occupied homes in November gave a stark reminder of the uncertain economic recovery.
The S&P 500 was slightly higher, buoyed by the energy and financial sectors.
This data shows that the housing market remains fundamentally weak and reminds us how bad things would be without government life support, said Gary Shilling, president of A. Gary Shilling & Co in Springfield, New Jersey.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> fell 53.06 points, or 0.50 percent, at 10,530.90. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> rose less than a point to 1,133. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> dropped 10.95 points, or 0.47 percent, at 2,297.47.
But stock losses were limited by another report that showed manufacturing orders climbed for a third straight month in November, some of the positive evidence that helped push stocks higher for the past month.
The drop in pending home sales from the National Association of Realtors broke a nine-month streak of gains and compared with economists' expectations of a 2 percent drop.
Luxury home builder Toll Brothers
The government said factory orders rose more than expected in November. The data suggested the manufacturing sector would continue to support a recovery one day after the Institute for Supply Management's index of factory activity beat estimates.
The U.S. dollar edged higher against a basket of currencies, weighing on commodity prices and capping gains in the materials and energy sectors.
U.S. oil futures fell 0.4 percent to $81.16 a barrel after a hitting a 2-month high in the last session.
A bright spot was Ford Motor Co
The Dow's top performer was Kraft Foods Inc
(Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Kenneth Barry)