U.S. stocks closed lower on Tuesday as investors eyed further declines in Apple's stock and slight recovery in oil prices, amid continued focus on the timing of a rate hike. ( Tweet This )
"What we got today was reaffirmation that the Fed would like to raise rates this year, certainly not far from consensus," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. He noted that this week also culminates with a jobs report.
"Apple's still the story," he said.
The major averages briefly extended losses after Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, a voting member, told the Wall Street Journal that the economy appears ready for a rate hike in September. Analysts noted slight surprise at the unscheduled remarks. Yields rose and the dollar gained against world currencies.
"There's no data point that's overwhelmingly bullish," said Adam Sarhan, CEO of Sarhan Capital. "To me it doesn't make any sense that if the Fed had a meeting today they would raise rates because demand is declining around the world."
The energy sector gave up early gains to close half a percent lower as oil attempted to recover recent losses, while Apple closed down 3.2 percent as the greatest blue chip decliner.
The stock "broke through a couple of technical support levels and that got a lot of people nervous," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade. He noted the stock has a major psychological effect on investors since it was the top held and traded stock at TD Ameritrade last year.
"Overall there's a lot of mixed signals and I think people are reluctant to put out anything huge ahead of employment," Kinahan said.
The iPhone maker's stock is in correction territory after plunging below its 200-day moving average on Monday. Trade volume was about 62 million in late morning trade, surpassing its 30-day average volume of 47 million shares. Shares of suppliers Skyworks, Cirrus, Vishay and Avago all plunged in sympathy.
"It's an enormous stock," said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices. "You haven't seen anything impact the stock (market) as quickly since IBM in 1982."
He pointed out that without Apple, the information technology sector would be up 0.86 percent rather than more than 1.5 percent lower since the stock hit a high on Feb. 23, 2015.
"Apple on the way up brings the whole market up, and on the way down everybody wonders, 'what does it mean,' because it encompasses all of our hopes, all of our fears," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial.
Besides technical pressure, analysts cited concerns about Apple's ability to sustain market leadership and negative impacts from China.
Commodities remained in focus, with brent struggling to hold above $50 a barrel. Crude oil settled up 57 cents at $45.74 a barrel. The energy sector was one of the greatest declining sectors in the S&P 500.
Energy stocks fell 2 percent Monday, following a more than 3.5 percent drop in West Texas Intermediate crude futures and 4.5 percent decline in Brent futures, which fell below $50 per barrel for the first time since the end of January.
Oil output by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) reached the highest monthly level in recent history in July, and production could rise further if Iran achieves a plan to raise output by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) as soon as sanctions are lifted.
"Markets have realized that growth is slowing, even outside of the energy sector," said Nick Raich, CEO of The Earnings Scout.
"It seems like the move (in oil) has caught a lot of people off guard to see it come down so fast," he said.