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Stocks close lower as Wall Street braces for key events later this week

  • The Dow, S&P and Nasdaq ended Tuesday's session lower, with investors looking ahead to ex-FBI Director James Comey's testimony and the UK general election.
  • Bond prices, meanwhile, caught a bid as the benchmark 10-year note yield hit its lowest level since the days following the U.S. presidential election.
  • Gold prices also hit their highest level in seven weeks.

U.S. equities closed lower on Tuesday as Wall Street hedged bets ahead of key events slated for later this week.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell about 45 points, with Boeing contributing the most losses. The S&P 500 closed 0.28 percent lower, with consumer discretionary leading decliners. The Nasdaq composite lagged, slipping 0.33 percent.

The three indexes briefly a small bid in afternoon trade after ABC News reported, citing a source, that former FBI director James Comey will stop short of saying President Donald Trump obstructed justice in the bureau's investigation of ex-national security advisor Michael Flynn's Russian ties, but failed to follow through.

"The market took a small sigh of relief, but there's still some caution because we don't know what's going to happen when Comey testifies," said Adam Sarhan, CEO of 50 Park Investments.

Comey is slated to testify Thursday in front of the Senate intelligence committee, marking his first public comment since being fired by Trump.

"The Comey testimony may give us something to talk about. I think it could be a he-said-he-said situation which could put off what can be done in Washington," said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Key Private Bank.

Investors have remained vigilant about any new developments on the situation. Nevertheless, the major large-cap indexes have made on making new highs recently as pullbacks present new buying opportunities.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York.

"It's hard to figure out what exactly would put a dent on this market," said Key Private Bank's McCain. "Things haven't been going too well but sentiment data has been strong."

"It's as if the Energizer Bunny has taken over and we're just going higher and higher," he said.

Bond prices, meanwhile, caught a bid as the benchmark 10-year note yield hit its lowest level since the days following the U.S. presidential election. Gold prices also hit their highest level in seven weeks.

"Those two markets are maybe signaling concern" among investors, said Jeff Zipper, managing director of investments at the Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank. "The [stock] market has been flatlining in the past few days as it waits for some clarity."

In economic news, job openings hit a record high in April, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), which showed a total of 6.0 million openings.

Craig Bishop, vice president of U.S. fixed income at RBC Wealth Management, said that, while the U.S. economy keeps perking along, inflation is still trailing the Federal Reserve's desired levels.

"I think there's some concern in the market that the Fed may be done raising rates after June," he said. "We all know the Fed is data dependent. Right now, there's a good chance the Fed holds after the June meeting.

The U.S. central bank is set to meet next week, when it's widely expected to raise rates.

Overseas, investors prepared for a general election in the United Kingdom set for Thursday. While a vast majority of observers still expect May to emerge victorious on Thursday, a Survation poll published last weekend placed the prime minister's ruling right-wing Conservative Party ahead by just a single percentage point.

On Tuesday, the pan-European Stoxx 600 dropped 0.67 percent, while the British pound slipped 0.1 percent to $1.289.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
DJIA
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S&P 500
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NASDAQ
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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 47.81 points, or 0.23 percent, to close at 21,136.23, with Wal-Mart leading decliners and Exxon Mobil outperforming.

The S&P 500 slipped 6.77 points, or 0.28 percent, to end at 2,429.33, with consumer discretionary leading nine sectors lower and energy and materials the only advancers.

The Nasdaq declined 20.63 points, or 0.33 percent, to close at 6,275.06.

Decliners were a step ahead of advancers at the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 833.44 million and a composite volume of 3.343 billion at the close.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded near 10.5.

—CNBC's Sam Meredith contributed to this report.