Sarhan In Reuters: Energy shares drag Wall St. down, Yellen speech awaited

Markets | Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:55am EDT

Wall Street was lower on Tuesday as oil prices skidded, and investors awaited Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s speech for clues on when the central bank may raise interest rates.

Crude oil fell about 3 percent amid concerns that a two-month rally may be in danger of fizzling. [O/R]

Yellen, who is due to speak before the Economic Club of New York at 12:20 p.m. ET (1620 GMT), will make her first remarks since the Fed’s meeting in March.

The central bank has said it will depend on economic data before it makes a decision on rates, but several policymakers have voiced support for more than one increase this year.

Investors will keep a close eye on Yellen’s speech as they look for fresh drivers that could push stocks higher.

The S&P 500 .SPX is back in the red for the year after a five-week rally lost momentum as investors fretted about the state of the U.S. economy amid global economic turmoil.

“We are seeing a little bit of a pause here,” said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of Sarhan Capital in New York. “I don’t expect major volatility this week. I expect this quiet packing and filling to continue.”

The S&P has traded in a narrow range, not moving more than 1 percent in either direction in more than two weeks.

At 9:37 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was down 86.43 points, or 0.49 percent, at 17,448.96, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 8.02 points, or 0.39 percent, at 2,029.03 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 14.45 points, or 0.3 percent, at 4,752.34.

Seven of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower, led by the 1.45 percent fall in the energy sector .SPNY. Exxon’s (XOM.N) 1.1 percent decline was the biggest drag on the index, while Chevron (CVX.N) was down 1.3 percent at $93.46.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index, due to be released at 10:00 a.m., is expected to have risen to 94 in March from 92.2 in February.

Among other Fed officials speaking on Tuesday is New York Fed President William Dudley.

Shares of Lennar (LEN.N) were up 3.1 percent at $48.14 after the homebuilder reported higher-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue.

EBay (EBAY.O) was down 1.9 percent at $23.66 and LinkedIn (LNKD.N) fell 2.5 percent to $106.50 after Barclays cut its ratings on the stocks.

Chipotle (CMG.N) was down 2.2 percent at $465.01 after Wedbush downgraded the stock to “underperform”.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,694 to 927. On the Nasdaq, 1,435 issues fell and 742 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed nine new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded eight new highs and 11 new lows.

(Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan and Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

LINK: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-stocks-idUSKCN0WV18Y

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