What goes up must come down. That was the mantra for Wall Street on Tuesday, as big gains achieved Monday were swiftly erased.
Stocks fell to session lows in the final hour. The S&P 500 was down 1.3%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.1%, and the Nasdaq slid 1.5%. Benchmark indexes had surged more than 1% on Monday.
Likewise, crude oil gave back the majority of its gains from the previous day, as commodity traders grew impatient over negotiations among members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
"In order for oil prices to experience a sustained lift, traders will likely want to see indications that Saudi Arabia and other key actors are prepared to consider actual production cuts, rather than merely freezing production at levels that already outpace global demand," said Robbie Fraser, commodity analyst at Schneider Electric.
In a speech earlier Tuesday, Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi dismissed the possibility of production cuts, instead arguing that by maintaining output, the market will rebalance over time as demand improves. Negotiations over a production freeze started last week as oil producers grapple with a global surplus. WTI crude fell 4.6% to $31.87 a barrel after jumping 6% a day earlier.
The energy sector was the worst performer in U.S. markets Tuesday. Major oilers Exxon Mobil (XOM) , PetroChina (PTR) , Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) , Chevron (CVX) and Total (TOT) were lower, while the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) fell 2.8%.
BHP Billiton (BHP) fell more than 5% after cutting its dividend for the first time in 15 years as profits declined. The mining giant had said that action would be unlikely six months ago, though a continued rough commodities environment had made it necessary. The company said it had suffered a $5.67 billion loss in the first half of its fiscal year.
The consumer confidence index, meanwhile, fell to 92.2 in February, its lowest level since July, down from a revised reading of 97.8 in January, the Conference Board said. Economists had expected a reading of 96.9, and the gap reflected growing anxiety over general business conditions.
"After maintaining momentum in January, the volatility in equity markets appears to have adversely affected consumers' assessment of the current economic landscape," Wells Fargo analysts wrote in a note.
Sales of pre-existing homes, however, climbed in January at the fastest pace since 2007, rising 11% from a year earlier to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.47 million, according to the National Association of Realtors. Analysts had expected a rate of 5.3 million.
In a separate reading on housing, U.S. home prices remained steady in December with half of the 20 cities studied showing increases, according to the Case-Shiller 20-City Index. Prices rose much faster in 2015, jumping 5.7% over the full 12 months. Portland, San Francisco and Denver enjoyed the largest gains, while prices in Washington, D.C., climbed just 1.7%.
Viacom (VIA.B) rose more than 0.4% after Chairman Phillipe Dauman said he is in "substantive discussions with a select group" of possible investors to sell a minority stake in its Paramount movie studio. The company is targeting an agreement by the end of its fiscal third quarter, around the middle of this year.
In earnings news, Macy's (M) breezed past fourth-quarter estimates. The retailer earned an adjusted $2.09 a share in its holiday quarter, above estimates of $1.89. Home Depot (HD) also enjoyed a solid quarter as demand in the home-improvement space remained robust. The retailer said U.S. same-store sales rose 8.9% in the last three months of 2015.
Fitbit (FIT) slumped 21% after its first-quarter guidance came in far weaker than analysts had expected. The fitness-tracking company said it expects sales no higher than $440 million, falling short of estimates of $484.4 million. The company warned that new product sales including its Apple-competing smartwatch would weigh on results.