U.S. stocks cap wobbly day of trading with modest losses

Traders William Lawrence and Ashley Lara work Tuesday on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Stocks are off to a slightly lower start on Wall Street as communications and energy companies fall.

Technology companies led stocks lower on Wall Street Tuesday as a wobbly day of trading ended with modest losses for the market.

Health care stocks jumped on stronger-than-expected reports from drugmakers, but losses by internet and media companies held the market in check.

Companies have largely been reporting stronger earnings than analysts expected, but they're nowhere close to blow-away good. S&P 500 companies are still on track to report a third straight quarter of profit declines, according to FactSet.

Tuesday's modest market pullback came a day after the S&P 500 hit an all-time high. The benchmark index mostly drifted between small gains and losses Tuesday, finishing within 0.1% of its record.

"The market was a little bit overbought," said Janet Johnston, portfolio manager at Trim Tabs Asset Management. "It's a good sign that it continues to hold at new highs."

The S&P 500 slipped 2.53 points, or 0.1%, to 3,036.89. It set a record on Monday, surpassing its prior peak set in late July.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 19.26 points, or 0.1%, to 27,071. The Nasdaq composite slid 49.13 points, or 0.6%, to 8,276.85.

Smaller companies fared better than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index rose 5.14 points, or 0.3%, to 1,577.07.

Major stock indexes in Europe closed mostly lower. The price of crude oil dropped a second straight day, and gold dipped.

U.S. stocks are on track to end October with gains. The S&P 500 has closed with a weekly gain the past three weeks.

What's helped buoy U.S. stocks are hopes that the United States and China can make progress on their trade dispute, or at least stop making it worse. Lower interest rates have also played a big role.

Most investors expect the Federal Reserve to cut short-term rates by a quarter of a percentage point today. The central bank has cut rates two other times since the summer in a bid to shield the U.S. from the impact of the trade war and a slowing global economy.

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