With little news to move the market either way, major indexes spent the day wavering between slim gains and losses. Stocks started higher in the morning, turned lower shortly after midday, then drifted downward until the closing bell.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 80.61 points, or 0.5 percent, to close at 17,977.04. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 9.63 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,092.43. The Nasdaq lost 7.73 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,988.25.
JetBlue Airways surged after the airline reported a 9 percent increase in passengers last month compared with the same period a year ago. JetBlue’s stock gained 80 cents, or 4 percent, to $19.85.
JPMorgan Chase, Johnson & Johnson, and Wells Fargo are among the big names turning in quarterly results Tuesday as earnings season gets underway. Investors are braced for bad news, a result of the stronger dollar and low oil prices squeezing revenues. Analysts forecast that first-quarter earnings shrank 3 percent compared with the same quarter of last year, according to S&P Capital IQ. If that winds up happening, it would be the first drop in quarterly profits since 2009.
Major stock markets in Europe were mixed. Germany’s DAX sank 0.3 percent, while France’s CAC 40 rose 0.3 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.4 percent.
Markets in China jumped on expectations that Beijing will launch additional support for the world’s second-largest economy. Imports fell 12 percent in March from a year earlier and exports declined 15 percent. That added to signs that economic growth in the first three months of the year, due to be reported Wednesday, might decline further from 7 percent the previous quarter.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 2.7 percent, closing at its highest level since December 2007. The Shanghai Composite Index climbed 2.1 percent, hitting its highest level since March 2008. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 closed nearly unchanged.
Back in the U.S., Builders FirstSource said it’s buying ProBuild, a supplier of building materials, for roughly $1.6 billion, aiming to expand its geographic reach. The deal is expected to close in the second half of the year. Builders FirstSource soared $4.67, or 68 percent, to $11.57.
Two gold mining companies, Alamos Gold and AuRico Gold, announced a plan to merge on Monday in a deal worth $1.5 billion. Alamos Gold jumped 39 cents, or 6 percent, to $6.28. The price of gold has lost a third of its value since late 2012, when it traded as high as $1,780 an ounce.
Gold and other precious metals fell slightly in Monday trading. Gold lost $5.30 to settle at $1,199.30 an ounce, while silver slid 9 cents to $16.29. Copper lost 2 cents to $2.72.
Prices for U.S. government bonds crept up, pushing the yield on the 10-year Treasury note down to 1.93 percent.
In the market for oil and gas, benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 27 cents to close at $51.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for many oils imported by U.S. refineries, gained 6 cents to $57.93 a barrel.
In other trading on the NYMEX:
- Wholesale gasoline fell less than a cent to $1.805 a gallon
- Heating oil gained 1.7 cents to $1.783 a gallon
- Natural gas was unchanged at $2.511 per 1,000 cubic feet.