Stocks fell in choppy trading Tuesday as investors digested the release of weaker-than-expected Home Depot earnings, mixed economic data and testimony from the top-ranked Federal Reserve official.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 33.97 points to 26,057.98 as Caterpillar and Home Depot underperformed. The S&P 500 pulled back 0.1 percent to close at 2,793.49 as losses in the industrials sector offset a gain in tech. The Nasdaq Composite closed 0.07 percent lower at 7,549.30. The major indexes alternated between gains and losses for most of the session.
Home Depot reported adjusted fourth-quarter earnings of $2.09 a share, below an expected profit of $2.16. The home improvement company also issued weaker-than-expected guidance for 2019. Those results sent Home Depot shares down about 0.88 percent.
Home Depot's results were followed by weaker-than-expected housing starts data. Data released by the Commerce Department showed housing starts fell 11.2 percent in December and reached their lowest level since September 2016.
The data are old and "not reflecting enough time for consumers to respond to lower mortgage rates," said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. "That said, the weekly MBA data on purchases has shown no real rebound in response to lower mortgage rates."
Home prices also rose in December at their slowest pace August 2015, the S&P Case-Shiller index showed.
Strong consumer confidence numbers helped equities recover some of their losses. The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index surged to 131.4 in February, easily topping an estimate of 124. In January, consumer confidence was at 121.7.