The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged above 26000 for the first time Tuesday, but gave up those gains as shares of energy and chemical companies declined.
The blue-chip index crossed the latest 1000-point milestone soon after the opening bell and rose as much as 283 points, but it later turned lower. Still, the Dow's march toward 26000 has been fast. It closed above 25000 seven trading sessions ago, heading toward the fastest leap to a new 1,000-point mark in its 120-year history.
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The historic rise builds on the Dow's 25% gain last year and its seemingly unstoppable climb to start 2018. The rally began in late 2016 as a bet on infrastructure spending, deregulation and tax cuts, but spent much of 2017 continuing on the back of strong corporate earnings growth.
Some money managers said they expect major U.S. indexes to resume their climb as more companies report fourth-quarter earnings. S&P 500 companies are projected to grow earnings by a double-digit percentage, and several investors said they are focusing most on what executives say they expect for 2018, particularly following the passage of the Republican tax overhaul.
"We have a high level of confidence in fourth-quarter earnings numbers," said Tom Wright, director of equities at JMP Securities. "But there's an even higher level of optimism around what forward guidance will be now that we have a new corporate tax structure."
The Dow industrials slipped 10.33 points, or less than 0.1%, to 25792.86, while the S&P 500 declined 9.82 points, or 0.4%, to 2776.42. The Nasdaq Composite fell 37.38 points, or 0.5%, to 7223.69.
Even after Tuesday's declines, the Dow and the S&P 500 are enjoying their best start to a year since 2003, while Nasdaq is up the most since 2012.
Shares of energy companies were among the biggest decliners in the S&P 500 Tuesday, giving up some of their recent gains. The sector has been a major contributor to the latest leg of the rally, as oil prices reached three-year highs in recent sessions and analysts expect those companies to report significant earnings growth.
Chemical companies also lagged behind, including fertilizer producer Mosaic Co., which fell $1.54, or 5.7%, to $25.68.
General Electric shares shed 55 cents, or 2.9%, to 18.21 after the industrial conglomerate disclosed a $6.2 billion charge related to its insurance business.
Supporting the blue-chip index, UnitedHealth Group rose 4.26, or 1.9%, to 232.90 after the health insurer beat analyst estimates and raised its guidance.
Merck, another Dow component, added 3.41, or 5.8%, to 62.07 after the drugmaker said a combination of its Keytruda treatment with chemotherapy extended survival of patients with lung cancer.
While some investors continue to harbor concerns about whether valuations are stretched, several say they have been hard pressed to find signs the long-running rally is reaching its end.
The monthly unemployment rate has held at a 17-year low since October, while gross domestic product, a broad measure of goods and services produced across the U.S., has been expanding at a rate of more than 3% in recent months.
The tax cuts President Donald Trump signed into law in December are expected to bolster U.S. economic growth further, keep the jobless rate low and support further stock gains, according to several analysts.
"There is an awful lot of reasons to be optimistic," said Cooper Abbott, president and chairman of Carillon Tower Advisers, a $64 billion asset-management firm. Many investors still expect a pullback, "but this is a resilient market," he added.
Elsewhere, the Stoxx Europe 600 gained 0.1%, while shares in Asia mostly rose.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed 1.8% higher, hitting a fresh record.
Japanese stocks rebounded from Monday's selloff, with the Nikkei up 1%, a fresh 26-year high. In China, the Shanghai Composite gained 0.8%, rallying from downbeat trading Monday and the South Korea Kospi rose 0.7%, its third consecutive day of gains.
Write to Michael Wursthorn at Michael.Wursthorn@wsj.com, Corrie Driebusch at email@example.com and David Hodari at David.Hodari@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 16, 2018 17:13 ET (22:13 GMT)