US Stocks Slip; Gold Near Record

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks are drifting lower in early trading on Wall Street Tuesday following a mixed set of earnings reports from big U.S. companies.

The S&P 500 was down 0.4% after the first 20 minutes of trading, while Treasury yields were holding relatively steady and gold inched a bit further into record heights. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 164 points, or 0.6%, at 25,430, as of 9:50 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was down 0.5%.

3M was a particularly heavy weight pulling the Dow lower after dropping 4.8%. The maker of n95 masks and various other products for consumers and businesses reported a profit for the latest quarter that fell shy of analysts' expectations. It said sales trends have been improving this month, but it also said there's still too much uncertainty given the pandemic to offer any forecasts for its future performance.

McDonald's lost 2.1% after it said its earnings during the spring plunged by more than two-thirds from a year earlier as the pandemic kept customers away. The results were weaker than Wall Street was expecting.

On the winning side was Pfizer, which rose 2%. It reported a profit for the latest quarter that topped analysts' expectations, even though it was down by nearly a third from a year earlier. It also nudged up its profit forecast for the full year after announcing the start of a late-stage trial of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine that it's developing with German partner BioNTech.

They're the latest earnings reports in what's to be a deluge this week, with more than a third of the companies in the S&P 500 on the schedule. Profits have so far been better than analysts were expecting, though they're still on pace to be down nearly 42% from a year earlier, according to FactSet.

The Federal Reserve is also beginning a two-day meeting on interest rates, with an announcement scheduled for Wednesday. Investors largely expect the central bank to keep short-term rates at their record low, but they're also looking to hear what it says about how long they may stay there.

The Fed helped launch the stock market's recovery in late March after slashing interest rates and promising to buy Treasurys, corporate bonds and other debt to prop up the economy. The S&P 500 is back to within 5% of its record set in February, after earlier being down nearly 34%.

Massive aid from Congress also helped that turnaround to erupt, but a big part of it is about to expire on Friday: $600 in weekly unemployment benefits. Such support has taken on more importance as a report last week showed an unexpected tick higher in the number of workers filing for jobless benefits. Rising coronavirus counts across the Sun Belt have pushed many businesses to close down again.

Many investors are hopeful that Democrats and Republicans can reach a deal on more aid for the 16 million or so Americans who are getting unemployment benefits, even though the two sides still seem to be far apart.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged down to 0.59% from 0.60% late Monday.

Gold, which has rocketed this year on worries about the economy, ticked up 90 cents to $1,931.90 per ounce. It earlier touched $1,974.40 to set a record for the second straight day.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 1% to $41.17 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, slipped 0.3% to $43.76 per barrel.

Stock markets overseas were mixed. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.3%, but South Korea's Kospi gained 1.8% and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.7%. Stocks in Shanghai added 0.7%.

In Europe, Germany's DAX lost 0.2%, and France's CAC 40 fell 0.6%. The FTSE 100 in London was virtually flat.