U.S. stocks declined in choppy trading on Tuesday as the euro's weakness raised concerns about the impact on technology companies' sales and worries over Europe's debt problems resumed.
Shares of technology companies such as Intel and Apple, which tend to rely heavily on overseas sales, led losses. Intel Corp shares dropped 2 percent to $21.47 while Apple slipped 0.4 percent to $253.23. Shares of Dow component Hewlett-Packard shed 0.6 percent to $47.23, reversing the morning's gain before the computer and printer maker's earnings, set for release after the closing bell.
An index of semiconductor shares <.SOXX> lost 1.9 percent.
It's a one-two punch: First is continuing concern
over the euro and continuing concern over the viability of the (European) Union, and then second, is rotation out of large-cap tech, said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Equity Markets in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Limiting the broader market's losses were shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc , up 2.8 percent at $54.19 after earnings topped estimates, with international growth offseting a drop in U.S. same-store sales.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 6.81 points, or 0.06 percent, at 10,619.02. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 4.36 points, or 0.38 percent, at 1,132.58. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 17.04 points, or 0.72 percent, at 2,337.19, after briefly falling 1 percent at midday to a session low at 2,330.26.
Stocks had opened higher as a meeting of euro-zone finance ministers in Brussels to iron out wrinkles in a 750-billion-euro rescue plan helped to curb fears that the region's debt crisis could spread. But the euro quickly resumed its downward move.
I think uncertainty about the situation in Europe isn't going to go away soon, and sentiment can change dramatically day in and day out, said Chris Burba, a short-term market technician at Standard & Poor's in New York.
Burba sees the market in a correction within a cyclical bull market, and said it could stay there until the end of August or later.
He puts resistance on the S&P 500 at 1,217-1,183 and support at 1,045-1,036, and said trading will likely be volatile over the coming weeks, but stocks will stay within a wide trading range.
Another factor helping to support stocks came from economic data this morning with a report that U.S. housing starts rose more than expected to touch their highest level since October 2008. But permits hit a six-month low.
The PHLX Housing Sector Index <.HGX> of home builders' shares and related stocks advanced 0.7 percent.
In another look at the economy, the Labor Department said the overall U.S. Producer Price Index dipped in April, confirming that inflation remained contained.
(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Jan Paschal)