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U.S. equity markets flipped between gains and losses on Tuesday as traders parsed through disappointing consumer-sentiment data and corporate reports.
As of 3:10 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 27.6 points, or 0.16%, to 16181, the S&P 500 dipped 2.4 points, or 0.13%, to 1845 and the Nasdaq Composite declined 6.7 points, or 0.15%, to 4287.
After a day with little in the way of economic data, the economic calendar is fuller in Tuesday.
Home prices in 20 major U.S. cities fell 0.1% in December on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, matching estimates, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price report. Compared to the same period in 2012, prices rose 13.4%, slightly higher than the 13.3% Wall Street expected. The data survey a period before unseasonably cool weather began pressuring the economy so some market watchers said this particular report might not be as closely watched as usual.
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Despite the annual gains, economists at Goldman Sachs warned "we anticipate a moderation in the rate of home price gains during 2014."
The Conference Board reports consumer confidence fell to 78.1 in February, from a downwardly revised 79.4 the month prior. Wall Street was looking for a reading of 80.
"This is a mixed report. Consumer confidence inching down is not good news," Chris Christopher, director of consumer economics at IHS wrote to clients.
"However, respondents’ evaluation of current economic circumstances is at elevated levels and could be interpreted as a signal that consumers are placing some of the blame for weaker economic news on the weather and do not feel that the weak employment and retail reports are likely to persist."
On the corporate front, Home Depot (HD) and Macy's (M) posted better-than-expected quarterly profits, but disappointing sales. The No. 1 U.S. home improvement retailer also hiked its dividend by 21%. JPMorgan Chase (JPM) said in an investor presentation firm-wide headcount will fall by around 5,000 workers in 2014.
Trading was bouncy on Tuesday. Indeed, the Dow crossed the unchanged line at least seven times. Seven out of 10 major sectors were in the green.
Elsewhere, U.S. crude oil futures slumped by $1.25, or 1.2%, to $101.55 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline fell 0.29% to $2.825 a gallon. Gold tilted lower by $2.10, or 0.15%, to $1,3356 a troy ounce.