Dow snaps 3-day winning streak as Walgreens falls on earnings

Markets set to pull back slightly following strong start to Q2

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell for the first time in four sessions on Tuesday as investors digested a strong rally from the previous session, while a decline in Walgreens Boots Alliance pressured the index.

The 30-stock Dow closed 79.29 points lower at 26,179.13. The  ended the day just above the flatline at 2,867.24, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.25 percent to close at 7,848.69. 

Consumer staples and energy were the worst-performing sectors in the S&P 500, sliding 0.8 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively. Real estate outperformed, rising 0.9 percent, while materials climbed 0.4 percent.

"Today looks like consolidation," said Larry Benedict, founder of The Opportunistic Trader. But "we've definitely broken out of that range around 2,800; we're now around 2,870. We could go to the high" seen last year. 

Benedict added the March jobs report — which is scheduled for release Friday morning — could be the catalyst for stocks to reach record highs. "These numbers on Friday are really much more important to what's going to happen in the next move from here."

The moves Tuesday come after strong manufacturing data out of the U.S. and China raised sentiment during Monday's session, with the Dow closing above 26,000 points for the first time since Feb. 26. The 30-stock index also gained more than 300 points on Monday, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both rallied more than 1 percent. 

A customer views merchandise for sale at a Walgreens store in the Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Christopher Lee | Bloomberg | Getty Images

U.S. manufacturing activity expanded last month, data showed, rebounding from its lowest level since late 2016. A separate survey showed China's factory activity also rebounded, expanding at its fastest pace in eight months.

The data sent Treasury yields surging on Monday, which in turn lifted bank stocks. Rates were down slightly on Tuesday, as the benchmark 10-year yield traded at 2.47 percent.

Data released Tuesday showed capital goods orders fell 0.1 percent in February, while economists polled by Refinitiv expected an unchanged print.

Monday's gains added to a strong start to 2019 for stocks as the S&P 500 trades more than 13 percent higher for 2019. However, gains will be harder to come by moving forward, according to Richard Turnill, global chief investment strategist at BlackRock.

"We see a repeat as unlikely and a narrower path for a grind higher," Turnill said in a note. "The global economy must remain strong enough to quell recession fears but weak enough to keep policymakers on hold, we believe."

"We see further decelerations in both economic and earnings growth ahead, with pressure on historically high corporate profit margins," Turnill added. "Yet we are also increasingly confident that the global economy can remain in late-cycle throughout 2019."

Shares of the Dow member Walgreens Boots Alliance fell 12.8 percent on weaker-than-expected earnings. Walgreens also lowered its earnings forecast for 2019. Tuesday's session was the stock's worst since Aug. 6, 2014, when it fell 14.3 percent.

Delta Air Lines, meanwhile, rose 6 percent after the company hiked its earnings guidance for the first quarter. Delta cited healthy demand. 

Walgreens' and Delta's releases come ahead of what Wall Street expects to be a tough earnings season. First-quarter earnings for the S&P 500 are expected to have fallen nearly 4 percent from the year-earlier period, according to FactSet.

"We had five straight quarters of double-digit growth and now the expectations are for a slight move backwards," said Craig Birk, chief investment officer at Personal Capital. "It will be interesting see how people deal with that after becoming really used to strong growth."

—CNBC's Ryan Browne contributed to this report.