Stocks drop as energy gains are offset by utilities slump

Factory orders tumbled in April

The stock market remains stuck in a rut.

On Tuesday, U.S. stocks ended the day with a slight loss as gains for the energy sector were offset by a slump in utilities. Treasury notes fell for a second day after a report showed that consumer prices rose in Europe for the first time since November, a sign that global inflation is picking up from a low base.

Stocks have been treading water for a month now as a series of modest gains and losses have cancelled each other out. The market remains close to record levels after a six-year bull-run, but investors appear reluctant to push prices any without first seeing evidence that the economy is recovering from its winter slump.

“It's still a decent market,” said Jerry Braakman, chief investment officer of First American Trust. “We're up for the year but it's not flying off the roof like it has been for the last five, or six years.”

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 2.13 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,109.60. The index has gained 0.1 percent in the past month.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 28.43 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,011.94. The Nasdaq composite fell 6.40 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,076.52.

Utilities led declines for stocks as bond yields climbed for a second day.

Investors bought dividend-rich utility stocks last year as bond yields plunged, but that trend has reversed as bond yields have edged higher in the last four months. The sector has dropped 7.6 percent this year, making it the worst performer among the 10 industry groups that make up the S&P 500.

The slump in that sector was offset by a gain in energy stocks, which benefited from higher oil prices.

Oil closed at its highest level since December as the dollar fell against the euro. Oil is priced in dollars, and a drop in the value of the U.S. currency pushes up the price that producers demand for oil.

Despite the recent lack of momentum for stocks, the trend still points for higher prices, said Karyn Cavanaugh, a senior Vice President at Voya Investment Management. She believes that stocks will resume their ascent as the economy strengthens and company earnings keep rising.

“The tendency is up, but it's not always a straight line,” said Cavanaugh.

Among the day's biggest winners on Tuesday was PVH. The stock jumped after the company reported earnings that beat the expectations of Wall Street analysts. The company also announced that its board had approved a $500 million share buyback program.

Investors were also following developments with Greece, a day after an emergency meeting of the nation's international creditors.

Greece has submitted a proposal it hopes will secure a deal to get more funds from its lenders. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said it is now up Europe's leaders to accept a deal or risk potentially disastrous consequences for the region. For four months, Greece and its creditors have been locked in a standoff over what reforms the country needs to make to get more loans.

In bond trading, prices fell, pushing yields higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed to 2.26 percent from 2.18 percent on Monday. European government bond yields also rose broadly. The yield on the 10-year German government bond rose to 0.72 percent from 0.55 percent, a large move.

The dollar weakened against the Japanese yen. Earlier, it climbed above 125 yen for the first time since 2002. The U.S. currency also weakened against the dollar after the consumer prices report. The currency traded up at $1.1153, from $1.0934 the day before.

In metals trading, gold was little changed at $1,194.40 an ounce. The price of silver rose 12 cents to $16.80 an ounce. Copper climbed 1.6 cents to $2.74 per pound.

In other futures trading on the NYMEX:

— Wholesale gasoline rose 2.3 cents to close at $2.065 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 2 cents to close at $1.946 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 4.9 cents to close at $2.698 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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