Choppy Trading: Stocks Head Lower

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The markets struggled to pick up momentum Tuesday, with the broad markets finding their way back into the red, as traders parsed through political and corporate news.

Today's Markets

As of 3:20 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.6 point, or 0.54%, to 14447, the S&P 500 dipped 3.6 points, or 0.23%, to 15523 and the Nasdaq Composite slipped 11.2 points, or 0.35%, to 3242.

The rally in equity markets continued Monday, with the Dow notching yet another record high and the S&P 500 closing at its highest level since October 2007. The broad-market barometer is only 0.57% off its record high of 1565.15.

The markets were broadly mixed on Tuesday. The technology, industrial, financial and utility sectors lagged, while the health-care, telecommunications and energy segments advanced. The VIX, a measure of stock-market volatility, jumped 5% after landing at a six-year low in the last session.

With little in the way of U.S. economic data on tap, the focus shifted to Capitol Hill. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled the Republican party's federal budget proposal that aims to balance the government's finances in a decade without raising taxes.

The proposal, which echoes ideas raised by the GOP during the 2012 campaigns, relies on spending cuts in several areas and the repeal of President Barack Obama's health-care reform law. The move is likely to be met with stiff resistance by Democrats who control the Senate.

The Senate is also expected to mull a continuing resolution bill that would halt a late-March government shutdown. Such a measure was passed in the House last week.

On the European front, U.K. industrial production skidded lower by 1.2% in January from December, widely missing forecasts of an increase of 0.1%. Markets in Britain traded essentially flat despite the weak data. David Madden, a market analyst at IG in London, wrote in an email that the data &quotactually helped the market&quot because it increased the chances of more asset purchases from the Bank of England.

Elsewhere, gold prices rallied $16.10, or 1%, to $1594 a troy ounce. Oil rose 7 cents, or 0.08%, to $92.13 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.19% to $3.146 a gallon.

In corporate news, Jefferies (NYSE:JEF) cut its price target on Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) by $80 to $420 a share amid worries the iPhone 5S and a lower-cost iPhone, both rumored products, will be delayed. Merck (NYSE:MRK) rallied on news a board said a study of a cholesterol-lowering drug could continue.

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) shares got a boost on talk Lenovo could be interested in acquiring the embattled smartphone maker or potentially part of its portfolio. Yum Brands (NASDAQ:YUM) also rallied on the back of a smaller-than-expected 20% dip in same-store sales for the January and February period.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.08% to 2717, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.02% to 6505 and the German DAX slipped 0.04% to 7981.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 drifted lower by 0.28% to 12315 and the Chinese Hang Seng slumped 0.87% to 22891.