U.S. stocks fell on Tuesday as investors engaged in profit-taking to pull major indexes from record levels, while the trend of modest moves and low volume continued heading into the final trading day of the year.
The day's losses were broad, with each of the ten primary S&P 500 sectors in negative territory. Utilities - 2014's best sector performer - led the decline with a drop of 2.1 percent.
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Equities have enjoyed a solid rally of late, buoyed by strong economic data and the U.S. Federal Reserve's commitment to be "patient" about raising interest rates. The S&P 500 gained nearly 6 percent over the prior eight sessions and managed to score its 53rd record close of the year on Monday.
The speed and scale of the rally provided incentive to take profits, and amplified volatility is possible this week with many market participants out for the holiday, which dampens volume. The stock market will be closed on Thursday for the New Year's holiday.
"It wasn't going to take much to prompt the decline, it's probably more resting than anything else. We've had a pretty significant move higher," said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Equity Management LLC in San Francisco.
"We've marched straight up from 1,970 or so to about 2,100 so it's only natural that we are going to get a little bit of a pullback here."
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 55.16 points, or 0.31 percent, to 17,983.07, the S&P 500 lost 10.22 points, or 0.49 percent, to 2,080.35 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 29.47 points, or 0.61 percent, to 4,777.44.
In the latest economic data, consumer confidence rose slightly less than expected in December, while U.S. single-family home price appreciation slowed less than forecast in October.
NeuroDerm (NASDAQ:NDRM) soared more than 193 percent to $18.14 on heavy volume after it said data from a mid-stage study suggested that a higher dose of its Parkinson's drug could provide an alternative to treatments that require surgery.
Civeo Corp (NYSE:CVEO), which provides temporary housing for oilfield workers and miners, late Monday slashed its workforce and forecast revenue could fall by one-third as slumping crude prices force oil producers to cut costs. The stock plunged 52.6 percent to $3.92 on volume of about 56.2 million shares, the most active day in its history.
Volume was light, with about 4.42 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, well below the 7.06 billion average so far this month, according to data from BATS Global Markets.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,806 to 1,262, for a 1.43-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,671 issues fell and 1,031 advanced for a 1.62-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The benchmark S&P 500 posted 25 new 52-week highs and 6 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 107 new highs and 39 new lows.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Nick Zieminski)