Stocks zigged and zagged after reports that the U.S. economy is weakening at a time when China and Europe are also slowing.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 54.90 points at 13,035.94 Tuesday. Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar was the weakest stock in the Dow average, slipping 3.13 percent, to $82.66. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.12 percent to 1,404.94.
The Nasdaq index bucked the losing trend, gaining 0.26 percent to close at 3,075.06. A big reason was that the index's biggest stock, Apple, rose $9.73 to $674.97 after the company invited reporters to a news event next week at which it is expected to announce the long-awaited iPhone 5.
The market got off to a weak start after the Commerce Department reported that U.S. construction spending fell 0.9 percent in July from June, driven lower by a sharp drop in spending on home improvement projects.
The decline, the worst in a year, followed three months of gains powered by increases in home and apartment construction.
A separate report delivered more gloomy news on the economy: the third straight month of contraction in U.S. manufacturing. New orders, production and employment all fell in August.
The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers for manufacturers, said its index of manufacturing edged down to 49.6 from 49.7 in July. It was the lowest reading in three years. A reading below 50 indicates that manufacturing is contracting.
The week will culminate with U.S. nonfarm payroll figures Friday, one of the most important barometers for the world's largest economy.