US stocks ended lower, as market sentiment was dented by weakening economic data and corporate earnings, and investors digested latest remarks of US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average decreased 33.97 points, or 0.13 percent, to 26,057.98 on Tuesday. The S&P 500 fell 2.21 points, or 0.08 percent, to 2,793.90. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 5.16 points, or 0.07 percent, to 7,549.30, Xinhua reported.
Shares of Home Depot fell nearly 0.9 percent around market close, after the US home improvement supplies retailer reported weaker-than-expected earnings for the fourth quarter of 2018.
Shares of Caterpillar also slid over 2.4 percent, after leading Swiss investment bank UBS double downgraded shares of the US construction equipment manufacturing giant, due to weakening global construction demand.
UBS sharply downgraded Caterpillar stocks from buy to sell. The bank also slashed its 12-month price target to 125 dollars from 154 dollars per share.
Seven of the 11 primary S&P 500 sectors traded lower around market close, with the materials sector down nearly 0.6 percent, leading the losers.
Investors digested Powell’s testimony to the Senate Banking Committee and his other remarks on Tuesday.
Powell reiterated the Fed’s patient stance on further interest rate hikes, saying it’s currently “a good time to be patient and watch and wait and see” how economic situation evolves.
Yet he noted that there have been some “crosscurrents and conflicting signals,” although the central bank views “current economic conditions as healthy and the economic outlook as favourable.”
On the economic front, US housing starts sank 11.2 percent in December 2018 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,078,000, the Department of Commerce reported on Tuesday.
The reading is the lowest level since September 2016, missing market consensus.
Yet the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose to 131.4 in February, which is nearly 10 points above January’s revised level of 121.7 to end three straight months of decline, beating market expectations.