NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks declined on Tuesday as the market continued its retreat from last week's rally on the "fiscal cliff" deal in Congress as investors awaited the start of the earnings season with muted expectations.
Profits in the fourth quarter are seen above the previous quarter's lackluster results, but analysts' current estimates are down sharply from where they were in October. Quarterly earnings are expected to grow by 2.7 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The benchmark S&P index has fallen 0.5 percent in the wake of the 4.3 percent jump in the two days surrounding the conclusion of the fiscal cliff debate, and investors have found few catalysts to extend the brief rally.
"We had a brief respite courtesy of what happened on the fiscal cliff deal and the flip of the calendar with new money coming into the market," said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.
"But now the stark reality of uncertainty with regard to earnings, plus the negotiations on the debt ceiling, are there and that doesn't give investors a lot of reason to take bets on the long side."
In Tuesday's results, Monsanto Co
Education provider Apollo Group and Dow component Alcoa Inc , the largest U.S. aluminum producer, round out the start of earnings season after the closing bell.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> dropped 73.13 points, or 0.55 percent, to 13,311.16. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> lost 6.91 points, or 0.47 percent, to 1,454.98. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> fell 12.68 points, or 0.41 percent, to 3,086.13.
Providers like AT&T pay hefty subsidies to handset makers so that they can offer device discounts to customers who commit to two-year contracts.
The S&P telecom services index <.gspl>, down 2.4 percent, was the worst performing of the 10 major S&P sectors.
Shares of restaurant-chain operator Yum Brands Inc
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Kenneth Barry and Nick Zieminski)
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