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Dow falls 170 points, snaps 3-day winning streak

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Stocks waver as recession fears ease—Four experts on what to watch

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell for the first time in four sessions on Tuesday, paring some of the strong gains from the previous session as recession fears lingered.

The 30-stock index closed 173.35 points lower, or 0.7%, at 25,962.44. The S&P 500 pulled back 0.8% to end the day at 2,900.51. The  Nasdaq Composite slid 0.7% to 7,948.56. The major indexes fell to their session lows in the final minutes of the trading session as Treasury yields declined as well. 

Home Depot helped keep losses in check. Shares of the home improvement retailer rose 4.4% on better-than-expected earnings. However, Home Depot warned tariffs could hit consumer spending and cut its full-year revenue outlook.

Still, the Dow has recovered a large chunk of its 800-point drop from Wednesday while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq have also regained some of their losses from that day.

"When you're on a roller coaster, the only thing you can be sure of is you'll end up back where you started," said Brian Nick, chief investment strategist at Nuveen, noting the market is back where it was a year ago. "We haven't gone much of anywhere because the economy is moving ahead, but the trade war is setting up these intermittent potholes and the global economy keeps slowing in the background."

Chip stocks, which are sensitive to trade news, contributed to Tuesday's decline. Micron Technology and Advanced Micro Devices dipped 1.7% and 2.4%, respectively. Netflix shares pulled back 3.4%.

Bank shares such as Citigroup, Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase all traded lower as Treasury yields pulled back. The benchmark 10-year yield fell about 5 basis points on Tuesday, or 0.05 percentage points, to 1.54%.

"I think yields moving down, just kind of got them going. For the past two weeks whenever yields move down, stocks move down," said Art Cashin, director of NYSE floor operations at UBS.

Equities rose sharply on Monday — with the Dow rallying nearly 250 points — as bond yields paused their recent and sizable decline, temporarily easing ongoing recession fears. 

The White House stepped in the ongoing debate over whether the U.S. economy will soon enter into recession mode, highlighting the strength in the U.S. economy.

Traders and financial professionals work ahead of the closing bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Nonetheless, The Washington Post and New York Times both reported the Trump administration was discussing a cut to payroll taxes as a way to mitigate slower economic growth. A White House official pushed back on the reports, saying cutting payroll taxes "is not something under consideration at this time." Trump later said on Tuesday that payroll taxes are a matter he had been thinking about.

Traders have been worried about the global economy as the U.S. and China remain engaged in a trade war. Wall Street got a reprieve on that front on Monday after U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that it was extending by another 90 days a temporary reprieve for Huawei to do business with American firms.

Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at The Leuthold Group, said worries over the economy are also arising because of fears that "overused economic policies have become futile."

"However, maybe the prowess of economic authorities is not nearly as compromised as advertised," Paulsen said in a note. "Economic policies do not work immediately. They have varied lags before impacting the character of the economy. On average, many economic policies take about one year before their impact is obvious."

Traders also looked ahead to the release of the Federal Reserve's minutes from its July meeting. The central bank cut rates by 25 basis points last month, citing "global developments" and "muted inflation." The Fed minutes are scheduled for release Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET.

—CNBC's Patti Domm and Silvia Amaro contributed to this report.