Stocks fell Tuesday, as data showing that July house sales declined more than expected raised concerns about the outlook for economic growth, said Standard & Poor's MarketScope. Homebuilding, cyclical and basic materials groups were broadly weak, while strength in certain telecom equipment and IT groups capped the losses in the Nasdaq.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 50.31 points, or 0.48%, to 10,519.58. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 4.14 points, or 0.34%, to 1,217.59. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite fell 4.16 points, or 0.34%, moving to 2,137.25.
Looking ahead to Wednesday's economics reports, the release of July new home sales is expected to show sales falling to 1.33 million, down from June's record pace of 1.374 million. Data on July durable goods orders is expected to show orders dropping 1.4%, according to economists polled by Action Economics.
Among the companies issuing earnings reports Wednesday is software maker Intuit (INTU).
In economic news Tuesday, July existing home sales fell to 7.16 million in July, down from 7.35 million in June (which was revised upward from an earlier reading of 7.33 million). The number is weaker than the 7.3 million sales economists were expecting.
Crude oil settled up 6 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange at $65.71 per barrel.
In corporate news, auto-financing group WFS Financial (WFSI) is close to finding a buyer, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The bank Wachovia (WB) is among those considering a deal for the group, which has a market capitalization of $2.5 billion, the paper reported.
General Electric (GE) and Rolls-Royce of the U.K. won a $2.47 billion contract from the Defense Department to develop and manufacture a new jet fighter engine. The deal was expected, according to reports.
The Food and Drug Administration sent Boston Scientific (BSX) a warning letter pointing out problems with its Taxus drug stents and two other devices. The letter, which was posted on the agency's web site Tuesday, was the third warning letter sent to the company since May.
Dow component Citigroup (C) fell more than 1% on the news that its consumer banking head Marjorie Magner is leaving.
In earnings news, home furnishing retailer Williams-Sonoma (WSM), owner of the Pottery Barn chain, on Tuesday reported second-quarter earnings up 12% to $30.8 million, and reiterated its full-year outlook.
Furniture retailer La-Z-Boy (LZB) reported a first-quarter profit of $3.2 million, up from a loss of $3.5 million in the period last year thanks to a $10.4 million in restructuring expenses. Sales, however, fell to $451.6 million from $455.1 million.
Home goods retailer Pier 1 (PIR) warned that its second-quarter losses are now expected to be between 12 cents and 14 cents per share, lower than the loss of 7 cents per share to a profit of 3 cents per share that the company had previously forecast.
Treasuries rose Tuesday following the release of the weaker-than-expected house sales data. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note fell to 4.18%, its lowest point in a month.
European stock markets closed lower Tuesday. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index fell 18.20 points, or 0.34%, to 5,300.20.
Germany's DAX index fell 23.95 points, or 0.48%, to 4,917.74.
In Paris, the CAC 40 index fell 49.38 points, or 1.10%, moving to 4,436.56.
Asian markets finished mixed Tuesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 index added 20.42 points, or 0.16%, to 12,472.93.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index gained fell 244.74 points, or 1.61%, to 14,973.89.