S&P 500 records longest loss streak since late 2013

U.S. stocks recovered a portion of their losses on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 back above 2,000 after falling below the level for the first time in nearly four weeks.

"Maybe having five down days in a row, the market stretched a little too far in a short period of time," Peter Boockvar, chief market strategist at the Lindsey Group, said of benchmark indexes reclaiming more than half of the ground lost during the session.

Energy companies remained in the red as investors fretted the implications of crude's failure to find a floor, with crude prices on Tuesday falling another 4.2 percent and closing below $48 a barrel.

"Oil hasn't found a bottom yet, and that's a concern for investors, who may be extrapolating that the global economy is slowing down," said Paul Nolte, senior vice president, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management.

"Lower gasoline costs are a boost for consumers, bolstering discretionary spending and income levels. On the negative side, it's a headwind for companies within and around the energy patch, elevating concerns about lower earnings estimates, which translates into some valuation concerns," Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist for U.S. Bank Wealth Management, said.

"It's still a buy the dips, grind higher equities market," Sandven added.

The CBOE Volatility Index, a measure of investor uncertainty, climbed 6 percent to 21.12.

Newmont Mining rallied with the price of gold; Michael Kors Holdings dropped sharply after Credit Suisse Group downgraded the handbag maker.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
DJIA
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S&P 500
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NASDAQ
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Erasing a 79-point gain, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped as much as 239 points, and closed at 17,371.64, down 130.01 points, or 0.7 percent.

After dipping beneath 2,000 for the first time since Dec. 17, the S&P 500 shed 17.97 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,002.61, with financials falling the most and telecommunications the best performing of its 10 major industry groups.

The Nasdaq declined 59.84 points, or 1.3 percent, to 4,592.74.

For every two share rising, two fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where 942 million shares traded. Composite volume topped 4.4 billion.

"How much of this selling is oil and bond related and how much of it is related to those that wanted to take profits in 2015 versus 2014? We'll never know," Elliot Spar, market strategist at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., wrote in afternoon commentary.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Oct. 29, 2014.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Oct. 29, 2014.

The U.S. dollar climbed against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners and the 10-year Treasury yield fell 9 basis points to 1.9429 percent.

Oil futures for February delivery dipped $2.11, or 4.2 percent, to $47.93 a barrel; gold futures rose $15.40, or 1.3 percent, to $1,219.40 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Tuesday's economic reports had the Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing index declining to 56.2 last month from 59.3 in November.

Separate data had factory orders down in November.

On Monday, U.S. stocks fell sharply, with the S&P 500 extending losses into a fourth session, as energy companies took it on the chin as the price of oil fell to its lowest since April 2009.

Read MoreUS stocks slide with crude to end at two-week lows

Coming Up This Week:

Wednesday

8:15 a.m.: ADP employment for December

8:30 a.m.: Trade deficit for November

2 p.m.: FOMC minutes

Thursday

8:30 a.m.: Weekly jobless claims

3 p.m.: Consumer credit for November

Friday

8:30 a.m.: Nonfarm payrolls for December

8:30 a.m.: Unemployment rate

10 a.m.: Wholesale inventories for November

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