NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks drifted lower on Tuesday, putting the S&P 500 on track to continue its recent pattern of modest declines as investors seek a catalyst to justify any further gains in the wake of central banks’ latest stimulus plans.
The latest moves by the European Central Bank and the U.S. Federal Reserve to stimulate their economies has put the benchmark index ahead nearly 7 percent for the quarter.
As the actions by the central banks helped contain declines, investors found little reason to justify any additional move higher.
“Overall I think with so little data both here and overseas, and not many companies with earnings reports coming out this week, I think you’re likely to see limited upside. But by the same token it’s been a pretty good month,” said Michael James, senior trader at regional investment bank Wedbush Morgan in Los Angeles.
The S&P 500 is up 3.1 percent so far for the month, historically a difficult period for the market to achieve gains.
Materials led declines for the day, with the S&P materials index .GSPM down 0.8 percent.
Dow component Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N) led declines on the Dow for a second day. Just before Monday’s close, it cut its profit outlook due to a sluggish global economy. Other companies to cut their financial views recently include FedEx Corp (FDX.N), Norfolk Southern (NSC.N) and Tesla Motors (TSLA.O). Caterpillar shares were down 3.7 percent at $87.54.
San Francisco Fed President John Williams said on Monday he expected the central bank to expand its bond-buying program next year to more aggressively combat the unemployment rate, but Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser countered on Tuesday the latest monetary stimulus will not do much to boost economic growth or lower unemployment.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 74.64 points, or 0.55 percent, at 13,484.28. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 11.04 points, or 0.76 percent, at 1,445.85. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 33.21 points, or 1.05 percent, at 3,127.57.
In economic news, U.S. consumer confidence jumped to its highest in seven months in September, the Conference Board said.
In addition, two separate reports showed home prices rose for another month in July, though the gains were not as strong as the previous month.
Red Hat (RHT.N) dropped 3.3 percent to $55.64 after the world’s largest distributor of Linux operating software reported a lower-than-expected adjusted profit and lowered the top end of its full-year revenue outlook.
(Additonal reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak and Atossa Abrahamian; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)