[NEW YORK] The Dow and the S&P 500 edged lower on Monday as energy shares dropped with oil prices and Apple retreated a day before its quarterly results.
Investors were cautious ahead of the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting, which begins on Tuesday. The market is looking for clues on the outlook for when the Fed may begin raising interest rates.
Apple shares fell 3.2 per cent to US$115.28, making it the biggest drag on all three major indexes, while a weak outlook from one of its suppliers, Dialog Semiconductor , led a fall in other semiconductors. An index of semiconductors was down 2 per cent after three days of gains.
The iPhone maker reports quarterly results after the market closes on Tuesday. "With Apple, it's more about their forecast and China news and any upgrades they may want to announce," said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.
The S&P energy sector fell 2.5 per cent, leading sector declines for the S&P 500. Crude oil prices slipped as global oversupply pushed fuel storage sites close to capacity. Exxon fell 2.1 per cent to US$81.22, while Chevron was down 2.7 per cent to US$88.77.
US stocks have mostly gained in October after a weak third quarter. The S&P 500 is up 7.9 per cent for the month so far. "It's been a pretty big move up, so we're seeing a little bit of consolidation today," Mr Meckler said.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 23.65 points, or 0.13 per cent, to 17,623.05, the S&P 500 lost 3.97 points, or 0.19 per cent, to 2,071.18 and the Nasdaq Composite added 2.84 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 5,034.70.
Among the top Nasdaq gainers, shares of Ctrip.com were up 22.1 per cent at US$90.78 after the online travel firm said it would merge with Qunar Cayman Islands. Qunar jumped 7.9 per cent to US$42.65.
Strong quarterly results from tech companies have helped improve expectations for overall US third-quarter earnings.
S&P 500 earnings are forecast to have declined 2.8 per cent in the quarter, based on actual results from about 35 per cent of the S&P 500 companies and estimates for the rest, compared with a 4.2 per cent decline forecast at the start of the month, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Data showed new US home sales fell 11.5 per cent in September, suggesting a softening of the housing market.
An index of housing shares was down 0.4 per cent.
Other gainers included Pep Boys, which jumped 23.4 per cent to US$14.99 after it agreed to be acquired by Bridgestone for US$15 per share.
Piedmont Natural Gas rose 36.9 per cent to US$57.82 after it agreed to be bought by Duke Energy. Duke Energy fell 2 per cent.
After the bell, shares of Hartford Financial fell 4.7 per cent to US$46.50 following its results.
During the session, NYSE declining issues outnumbered advancers 1,916 to 1,153, for a 1.66-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,749 issues fell and 1,077 advanced, for a 1.62-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 36 new 52-week highs and eight lows; the Nasdaq recorded 111 new highs and 73 lows.
About 6.1 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges, below the 7.3 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.