Wall Street Falls on Concerns About Europe, U.S. Rate Hike

Markets Reuters

U.S. stocks fell on Tuesday, pushing the S&P 500 to its biggest decline in three weeks, weighed down by concerns about Greece and some upbeat data that fueled expectations that a U.S. rate hike could come sooner rather than later.

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All 10 major S&P 500 sectors were lower, with a drop in oil prices weighing on energy shares and transportation stocks. The S&P energy index was down 1.6 percent, while the Dow Jones transportation average fell 1.6 percent and touched its lowest level since Oct. 23.

The dollar was up 1.3 percent against a basket of major currencies as commodity prices fell.

"You're seeing a lack of leadership, and you're seeing weakness in the transports continue ... and it's really the rails that have gotten hit the hardest mainly because of oil transport," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth in New York.

Reports on Tuesday showed U.S. business investment spending plans increased solidly in April, consumer confidence perked up this month and house prices extended gains in March.

The buoyant data comes after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday that the central bank could raise interest rates this year if the economy keeps improving as expected. The comments kept the prospects of a September rate increase high.

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Adding to concerns was Greece, which has warned it may miss a June 5 debt repayment to the International Monetary Fund.

The prospect of higher rates is one of the biggest issues that's been weighing on the market, said Larry Peruzzi, senior equity trader at Cabrera Capital Markets Inc in Boston, though the day's move may have been exaggerated because the market was closed Monday for Memorial Day.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 190.48 points, or 1.04 percent, to 18,041.54, the S&P 500 lost 21.86 points, or 1.03 percent, to 2,104.2 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 56.61 points, or 1.11 percent, to 5,032.75.

Apple, down 2.2 percent at $129.62, was the biggest drag on all three major indexes.

The Dow transportation average flirted with a 10 percent drop that would put it in correction territory and closed 9.4 percent below its record high set late in December. On an intraday basis, the index fell more than 10 percent from a high hit in November.

Charter Communications' shares were up 2.5 percent at $179.78 after it agreed to buy Time Warner Cable for $56 billion. Time Warner Cable rose 7.2 percent to $183.60, well below Charter's cash and stock offer of $195.71.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,417 to 662, for a 3.65-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 2,071 issues fell and 683 advanced for a 3.03-to-1 ratio.

The benchmark S&P 500 index posted five new 52-week highs and seven new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 52 new highs and 77 new lows.

About 6.3 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, slightly above the 6.2 billion daily average for the month to date, according to BATS Global Markets. 

(By Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Nick Zieminski)