Stocks pulled lower Tuesday on Wall Street after a mixed set of earnings reports from dozens of big U.S. companies.
The S&P 500 fell 20.97 points, or 0.65%, to 3,218.44 after a last-hour slide erased a small gain from earlier in the day. Caution across markets also helped send Treasury yields a bit lower and gold a bit further into record heights.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 205.49 points, or 0.8%, to 26,379.28, and the Nasdaq composite lost 134.18, or 1.3%, to 10,402.09.
This week marks the heart of earnings reporting season for the S&P 500, and several big companies gave results that fell short of analysts' already lowered expectations as the pandemic stole customers away and increased some costs.
Consumer-products maker 3M was a particularly heavy weight on the Dow after dropping 4.8%. The maker of N95 masks and other products for consumers and businesses reported a profit for the latest quarter that fell shy of analysts' expectations.
McDonald's lost 2.5% after its earnings during the spring plunged by more than two-thirds from a year earlier as the pandemic kept customers away. The results were weaker than Wall Street was expecting.
Ecolab slumped 8.6% for one of the largest losses in the S&P 500 after it said that its profit fell more steeply last quarter than analysts expected. The company sells sanitizing and other products to food-service companies and other customers, and it was hurt by shutdowns in travel and dining because of the pandemic. It also said, though, that it expects the latest quarter to mark the low point for the company.
Losses for big technology stocks also helped to drag the market lower. The chief executive officers of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google's parent company are all set to give testimony today to a House of Representatives committee investigating market dominance of the technology giants.
On the winning side was Pfizer, which climbed 3.9%. It reported a profit for the latest quarter that topped analysts' expectations, even though it was down by nearly a third from a year earlier. It also nudged up its profit forecast for the full year after announcing the start of a late-stage trial of an experimental covid-19 vaccine that it's developing with German partner BioNTech.
"Most investors are looking through 2021 calendar year earnings, as opposed to paying too much attention to the rest of this year," said Eric Freedman, chief investment officer at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
The Federal Reserve also began a two-day meeting on interest rates, with an announcement scheduled for today. Investors largely expect the central bank to keep short-term rates at their record low, but they're also looking to hear what it says about how long they may stay there.
On Tuesday, the Fed said that it will extend the lives of seven of the lending programs by three months through the end of the year, an acknowledgment of the severity of the recession.
Many investors are hopeful that Democrats and Republicans can reach a deal on more aid for Americans who are getting unemployment benefits, even though the two sides still seem to be far apart.
"They're going to get to a resolution eventually, it's just how the sausage is made is going to take a little longer and that's causing a little trepidation," said Ryan Detrick, chief investment strategist for LPL Financial.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged down to 0.58% from 0.60% late Monday.
Gold, which has rocketed this year on worries about the economy, rose $13.60 to settle at $1,944.60 per ounce. It earlier touched $1,974.40 to set an intraday record for the most actively traded contract for the second-straight day.