Stocks managed to close with modest gains on Wall Street on Tuesday after a day of up-and-down trading. A survey on the homebuilding industry weighed on the market most of the day, dragging down homebuilding stocks. Facebook, Google, Apple and other tech stocks also fell.
HOUSING HO-HUM: A key gauge of U.S. home builders' confidence in the housing market rose modestly in April but remained low for the third straight month. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index edged up to 47 this month from 46 in March. Readings below 50 mean builders view sales conditions as poor. Builders expect sales to improve over the spring and summer. The survey results sent home builders lower. Hovnanian Enterprises was among the biggest decliners.
Hovnanian fell 12 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $4.43.
UP AND DOWN: The market appears to be decidedly undecided of late, often racking up small gains early in the day and then giving them back in the afternoon. The market nearly lost its gains in the last hour of trading on Monday. Until midmorning Tuesday, the market opened on track to extend the prior day's modest gains.
"We've seen this kind of action over the past week or so, where we started off a little better and sold as the market got on," said Brad Sorensen, director of market and sector analysis at the Schwab Center for Financial Research. "The impetus today does seem to be around the housing number. It really turned around right about the time that number came out."
TECH SLUMP: Seven of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index fell. Apple, Google, eBay and Hewlett-Packard were among the stocks weighing down the index. Facebook shed $1.33, or 2.3 percent, to $57.56.
BIG DECLINERS: Among the stocks posting the biggest declines in the S&P 500 index were First Solar, which fell $2.83 or about 4.2 percent, to $65.46. TV streaming service Netflix slumped $12.97, or about 3.9 percent, to $318.60. Wynn Resorts plunged $10.80, or 5.1 percent, to $199.70.
COKE: Coca-Cola said strong sales of noncarbonated drinks such as juice helped offset a first-quarter decline in global soda volume. A stronger dollar contributed to an 8 percent decline in profit for the world's biggest beverage maker. But the company's adjusted results for the quarter were in line with Wall Street expectations. Coca-Cola rose $1.51, or 3.9 percent, to $40.24.
"So far earnings season has progressed nicely. We're looking for healthy earnings growth and, so far we're getting it," said Anastasia Amoroso, global market strategist at JPMorgan Chase. "But there's a bit of a tug-of-war with what's happening internationally."
UKRAINE TENSIONS: Beyond balance sheets, investors were tuned into the developing situation in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian insurgents dug in Tuesday, fortifying positions around seized buildings. Western governments have accused Moscow of fueling the unrest in eastern Ukraine and worry that any bloodshed could be used as a pretext for a Russian invasion, in a repeat of events in Crimea a few weeks ago.