Stock indexes edge mostly down as retailers sink

The New York Stock Exchange building.
(Richard Drew / Associated Press)

Major stock indexes on Wall Street wobbled Tuesday and ended mostly lower, as losses by energy companies and department store operators largely edged out gains elsewhere in the market.

A solid showing for technology stocks helped lift the Nasdaq composite to another all-time high. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index finished less than 2 points below the record-high close it reached Monday. A slide in Home Depot’s stock weighed on the Dow Jones industrial average, which ended lower the day after its own record high.

Energy-sector stocks took the heaviest losses as the price of U.S. crude oil dropped 3.2%. Disappointing earnings from Kohl’s sent other retailer stocks into a skid.

Stock indexes’ movements are “almost a carbon copy of yesterday,” said Jeff Zipper, managing director at U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management. “The S&P basically flat, the Nasdaq obviously up. Right now, the markets, as we go toward year-end, their path of least resistance is up.”


The S&P 500 index slipped 1.85 points, or less than 0.1%, to 3,120.18. The Dow fell 102.20 points, or 0.4%, to 27,934.02. The Nasdaq climbed 20.72 points, or 0.2%, to 8,570.66.

Smaller-company stocks fared better than the rest of the market, driving the Russell 2000 index up 5.95 points, or 0.4%, to 1,598.29.

Bond prices rose, sending bond yields down. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.79% from 1.80%.

U.S. stocks have been rising for weeks as a mix of solid economic data and corporate earnings inject confidence into the market and diminished fears that a recession was imminent.


Technology, by far the best-performing sector this year, has done especially well as investors have grown more hopeful that the United States and China will make progress in ending their trade war. Investors hope the world’s two biggest economies can deliver on plans for a “Phase 1” deal before new and more damaging tariffs take effect next month.

Tech stocks were among the big gainers Tuesday, led by chipmakers. Advanced Micro Devices climbed 3.5%. Broadcom rose 2.1%.

Healthcare stocks accounted for the biggest swath of gains. Pfizer rose 1.2%. Amgen gained 1.7%.

Oil producers declined as crude oil prices took another stumble. Marathon Petroleum shares slid 3.4%. Occidental Petroleum stock lost 3%.


The energy sector — which, with a gain of just 1% for the year, trails all other S&P 500 sectors — dropped 1.5% on Tuesday.

Disappointing quarterly reports from Home Depot and Kohl’s weighed on retail stocks.

Home Depot shares dropped 5.4% after the home improvement company reported weak sales growth for the most recent quarter and cut its forecast for the year. Its rival Lowe’s, which will report earnings Wednesday, fell 1.4%.

Kohl’s shares plunged 19.5% after the department store operator slashed its profit forecast for the year after issuing weak third-quarter earnings. The outlook prompted traders to dump other department store stocks. Macy’s sank 10.9%. Nordstrom lost 6.3%. Both report their own results Thursday.


Not all big retailers had a bad day. Shares of TJX Cos. rose 1.8% after the parent of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls reported encouraging third-quarter earnings and raised its profit forecast for the year.

Benchmark crude oil fell $1.84 to settle at $55.21 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, dropped $1.53 to close at $60.91 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.60 a gallon. Heating oil declined 4 cents to $1.86 a gallon. Natural gas fell 6 cents to $2.51 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $2.40 to $1,473.30 an ounce. Silver rose 11 cents to $17.10 an ounce. Copper rose 3 cents to $2.65 a pound.