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Dow snaps 6-day winning streak as GE posts biggest drop in 6 years

  • GE shares posted their biggest one-day decline since August 2011.
  • The three major indexes posted intraday records before closing lower.
  • Wall Street also geared up for the busiest week of the earnings season.

U.S. stocks fell from record levels on Monday as a decline in General Electric shares weighed on investor sentiment. Wall Street was also gearing up for the busiest week of the earnings season.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed 54.67 points lower at 23,273.96, as General Electric shares fell 6.3 percent, marking their biggest one-day decline since August 2011.

The company reported earnings on Friday which fell short of analysts' expectations as profits were undermined by restructuring and weak performance at its oil and gas businesses. Analysts also panicked on Monday over the possibility GE may have to cut its dividend.

Morgan Stanley analyst Nigel Coe lowered his rating on GE to underweight from equal weight and cut his price target to $22 from $25.

"The reduction to our target price is driven by a substantial cut to earnings expectations," Coe said in a note to clients. "We also see a higher probability of a dividend cut that we do not view as priced in. We believe investors need to take action to protect against the possibility of near term underperformance in the event of a dividend cut in November and this is clearly an additional factor in our rating change."

The S&P 500 declined 0.4 percent to close at 2,564.98, with industrials and telecommunications lagging. Hasbro was the second-worst-performing stock in the S&P 500, falling 8.6 percent after the company warned of weaker holiday-season sales due to the bankruptcy of its largest customers, Toys 'R' Us.

The Nasdaq composite finished 0.6 percent lower at 6,586.83, as shares of Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet all fell. The tech-heavy index, along with the Dow and S&P 500, hit intraday records earlier in the session.

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Investors also braced themselves for the busiest week of the earnings season.

About a third of the S&P 500 will have reported quarterly earnings when the week is over. Companies reporting this week include Dow components 3M, Caterpillar and Boeing. Also reporting this week are Amazon, Alphabet, NBCUniversal-parent Comcast and Twitter.

"It's a big week for earnings. We've got a lot of bellwether names reporting," said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. "That's going to be one of the main drivers for the market this week."

Earnings season has gotten off to a good start. With 17 percent of the S&P 500 having reported as of Monday morning, 73 percent have beaten on both the top and bottom lines, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

"We've seen a trend of improving reports and I think we're going to see that continue," said Maris Ogg, president at Tower Bridge Advisors.

Stocks were coming off a perfect week. The three major indexes posted record closing highs every day last week, marking the 18th time in history that has happened, according to Howard Silverblatt, senior Index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

The Dow closed above 23,000 for the first time ever on Wednesday.

The move to new highs coincides with the strong earnings reports and increased possibilities of tax reform moving forward in the U.S.

The Senate approved a $4 trillion budget measure last week, enabling reconciliation, which enables the GOP to pass a tax bill with a simple 51-vote majority in the Senate. A framework GOP officials released late last month said the proposal would double the standard deduction and scrap provisions like the estate tax and alternative minimum tax.

"The next hurdle that needs to be overcome is the differences that exist between the Budget Resolution passed by the Senate and the different version passed by the House," Tom Block, Washington policy strategist at Fundstrat, said in a note."To accelerate the process, and help insure passage, the White House, Senate tax writers and House tax staffs have all been working together to come out with a joint bill that the President will support and sign, and that the House and Senate can pass expeditiously."

"Bottom line: It is my view that before Thanksgiving, Congress and the White House will unveil their unified tax package and that while a year-end date may be overly ambitious, I believe a bill will pass by the end of 1Q18."

—CNBC's Tae Kim contributed to this report.