Stock Indexes Post Modest Losses

(AP) -- Industrial and materials companies led U.S. stocks modestly lower Wednesday on another day of subdued trading ahead of the long Easter holiday weekend.

The slide marked the second decline in a row for the stock market, extending its losses for the month.

Energy stocks also fell as oil prices snapped a six-day winning streak. Utilities, phone companies and other high-dividend stocks were among the biggest gainers. Bond prices rose, sending yields lower.

"The market is kind of on hold until we start getting earnings reports and you start to read the body language on what managements are saying," said Thomas Martin, portfolio manager at GLOBALT Investments in Atlanta. "We're getting this slow churning really until we start getting some information."

The Standard & Poor's 500 index slid 8.85 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,344.93. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 59.44 points, or 0.3 percent, to 20,591.86. The Nasdaq composite index lost 30.61 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,836.16.

Small-company stocks did far worse than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index gave up 17.75 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,359.20.

Twice as many stocks fell as rose on the New York Stock Exchange, while trading in declining stocks was 2.5 times as heavy as that of stocks that closed higher.

The yield on the benchmark U.S. 10-year note fell to 2.25 percent from 2.32 percent late Tuesday. That's its lowest yield since November.

"That's indicative of people, once more, taking that opinion of being risk-off, or not willing to make a bet that equity prices are going to be up because of higher earnings to be reported here for the first quarter," said Terry DuFrene, global investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank.

Companies are due to begin disclosing their latest quarterly results over the next few weeks, beginning on Thursday with several big banks.

Among the stocks that helped pull the market lower Tuesday was Tractor Supply, which sank 8.3 percent. The farm equipment retailer said sales of seasonal goods fell during the first quarter. The stock fell the most among companies in the S&P 500, shedding $5.86 to $64.61.

Industrials sector stocks were the biggest decliner in the S&P 500. Fastenal led the sector slide, tumbling 8 percent after the maker of industrial coatings and construction fasteners disclosed that its business was hurt by higher freight expenses and inventory costs. The stock lost $4.05 to $46.29.

Other laggards in the sector included United Rentals, which slid $4.80, or 3.8 percent, to $121.13, and Rockwell Automation, which shed $5.88, or 3.8 percent, to $150.23.

Investors bid up shares in Blackberry after arbitrators awarded the smartphone maker $814.9 million to resolve a dispute with Qualcomm over royalty overpayments. The stock gained $1.23, or 16 percent, to $8.93.

Major stock indexes overseas were mixed.

In Europe, Germany's DAX rose 0.1 percent, while France's CAC 40 dipped less than 0.1 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.2 percent. Earlier in Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index slid 1 percent after the dollar fell under 110 yen for the first time in five months, pressuring the country's exporters. Hong Kong's Hang Seng reversed its losses in the final hour of trading, rising 0.9 percent. South Korea's Kospi climbed 0.2 percent.

Benchmark U.S. crude snapped a six-day winning streak, losing 29 cents to close at $53.11 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, fell 37 cents to close at $55.86 a barrel in London.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline dipped 2 cents to $1.74 a gallon. Heating oil held steady at $1.65 a gallon. Natural gas rose 4 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $3.19 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Among metals, gold rose $3.90 to $1,278.10 an ounce. Silver gained 5 cents to $18.30 an ounce. Copper fell 6 cents to $2.55 a pound.

The dollar had been losing ground much of the day, but recovered by midafternoon. By late afternoon, however, the U.S. currency took a sharp turn lower after President Donald Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that the dollar was "getting too strong."

In late trading, the dollar weakened to 109.10 yen, down from 109.69 yen late Tuesday. The euro strengthened to $1.0669 from $1.0608.

U.S. markets will be closed Friday for the Good Friday holiday.