Stock Market Today: Stocks Drop Back to Near Session Lows

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks were falling back near session lows Tuesday afternoon as investors squared positions and took profits in uneasy market conditions marked by choppy trading. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.21% in the afternoon. The S&P 500 was off 0.34%, and the Nasdaq   shed 0.29%. Investors were factoring in the upcoming fourth quarter, disappointing economic data and a still very liquid global financial marketplace while trying to close out the third quarter. 

Watch the video below for a closer look at how U.S. markets are doing in midday trading Tuesday:

"The market has been churning volatility," said Doug Roberts, managing principal for Channel Capital Research. "People are really scared, but there's still plenty of liquidity and eventually people start buying." Roberts was referring to worries that the economy has not stabilized enough for the Federal Reserve to be pulling back, which is countered by the acceleration of stimulus at other central banks and hopes that the Fed wind-back will continue to be gradual.

Anticipation of strength in the fourth quarter was helping to tone down some of the concerns by investors. "Overall, somewhat disappointing economic data today coupled with the disappointing news out of Ford (F) yesterday are probably going to lower 3Q earnings estimates," said Ryan Detrick, strategist at research firm See It Market. "Still, historically the fourth quarter is the strongest quarter so don't ignore that going forward."

Since 1950, the SPX has been up over 4%, on average, in the fourth quarter and higher 78% of the time, according to Detrick. Meanwhile, the SPX was close to finishing slightly positive in the third quarter -- making that the seventh straight positive quarter. The S&P 500 is up 0.56% so far in the third quarter.

In economic data on Tuesday, the Conference Board's consumer confidence index fell to a lower-than-expected 86 this month, down from 93.4 in August. The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index for July rose by a slower-than-expected 6.7% from a year ago; it was the smallest yearly gain since November 2012.

The Chicago PMI also exhibited a slowdown, falling to a lower-than-forecast 60.5 in September from 64.3 in August.

In top corporate headlines Tuesday, eBay (EBAY) jumped 7.85% on its plan to split off its PayPal business into an independent publicly traded company.

GoPro  (GPRO) gained more than 1.5% after a Citigroup analyst raised his price target on the wearable camera company to $94 from $70.

News Corp (NWSA)  agreed to buy online real estate business Move Inc. (MOVE) for about $950 million. Move soared 37.61%. News Corp fell 1.37%.

Apple (AAPL) said Tuesday the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus would go on sale in China on Oct. 17. Apple received approval from China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology after it promised never to install "backdoors" to give other governments access to users' information. The stock gained 0.73%.

Ford (F) said Monday it expects a pretax profit of around $6 billion this year, down from its previous guidance of $7 billion to $8 billion. Shares slid 2.28%.

Morningstar downgraded Pimco Total Return Fund to "bronze" from "gold" following the departure of Bill Gross "because of the resulting uncertainty regarding outflows and the reshuffling of management responsibilities." 

-- By Andrea Tse in New York

Follow @AndreaTTse

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