Investors were digesting a mild April producer price index and initial housing starts. Also in focus: Wal-Mart and Home Depot
Stocks finished modestly lower Tuesday, as tame housing and inflation reports met with caution ahead of another inflation report due Wednesday. The market appears to be forming a near-term bottom after last week's sell-off, says Standard & Poor's Equity Research.
The Dow Jones industrial average edged lower 8.88 points, or 0.08%, to 11,419.89, despite gains by Disney (DIS ). The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 2.43 points, or 0.19%, to 1,292.07. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite fell 9.39 points, or 0.42%, to 2,229.13.
Inflation figures were in focus Tuesday. The overall producer price index rose 0.9% in April, while the core index increased 0.1%. The tame core number should alleviate some inflation concerns, says Action Economics.
In other economic data, U.S. housing starts skidded to 1.85 million in April, below expectations. Separately, industrial production increased 0.8% in April, boosting capacity utilization to 81.9%, ahead of projections.
A different inflation gauge will likely draw attention Wednesday with the release of the consumer price index. The overall CPI is expected to rise 0.6% in April, while the core index rises 0.2%.
On the corporate side, Wal-Mart (WMT) was higher after the retail giant said fiscal first-quarter profit rose 6.3%. That followed a lackluster earnings report Monday from rival Target (TGT ).
Home improvement retailer Home Depot (HD ) was lower after reporting 19% higher first-quarter profit. Office-products retailer Staples (SPLS ) was down on a 26% jump in first-quarter profit.
After the bell, computer maker Hewlett-Packard (HPQ ) posted higher-than-expected profits for its fiscal second quarter. Shares were up in after-hours trading.
Outside of earnings, General Motors (GM ) was lower after the United Auto Workers voted to approve a strike against the auto giant's former unit Delphi.
Oil company Occidental Petroleum (OXY ) was lower after saying its production contract with Ecuador ended following a dispute with the South American country's government.
Meanwhile, General Electric (GE ) and Chevron (CVX) were higher after a regulatory filing showed billionaire investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway bought stakes in the companies.
In the energy markets, June West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures closed up 12 cents at $69.53 a barrel, rebounding modestly from recent declines ahead of Wednesday's inventory data.
European markets finished mixed. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index edged up 4.9 points, or 0.08%, to 5,846.2. Germany's DAX index slipped 5.11 points, or 0.09%, to 5,851.92. In Paris, the CAC 40 index rose 16.84 points, or 0.33%, to 5,081.69.
Asian markets finished lower. Japan's Nikkei 225 index tumbled 328.49 points, or 1.99%, to 16,158.42. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 101.73 points, or 0.62%, to 16,393.11. Korea's Kospi index slid 31.87 points, or 2.25%, to 1,382.11.
Treasury yields eased on the mild economic reports. Prices for 10-year Treasury notes rose to 100-06/32 with a yield of 5.1%, while 30-year bonds climbed to 89-08/32 for a yield of 5.22%.