U.S. stocks drifted slightly lower in late-afternoon trading Monday, with oil drilling companies and homebuilders notching broad declines. Investors were looking ahead to the start of a two-day round of Congressional testimony by Fed Chair Janet Yellen.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average lost 60 points, or 0.3 percent, to 18,079 as of 3:35 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell five points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,104. The Nasdaq composite shed 10 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,945. The market is coming off an all-time high reached last week.
THE QUOTE: "The markets are in a holding pattern," said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer of Wells Fargo Private Bank. "We'll have some very interesting information coming up from Janet Yellen tomorrow and Wednesday, so the markets are looking at that very closely."
YELLEN SPEAKS: Yellen is scheduled to deliver her semiannual report to Congress on the economy and interest rates in a two-day session beginning Tuesday. Investors will be listening for any hints of when the central bank will move to raise its key interest rate.
HOMES SALES PLUNGE: The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of previously occupied homes tumbled 4.9 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.82 million. That brings sales down to their lowest level since last April. Weak sales last year set up expectations of a strong rebound this year, yet signs of that resurgence have yet to appear. Homebuilder shares slumped on the news. Century Communities declined the most, shedding 90 cents, or 439 percent, to $17.48.
"The home numbers a little disappointing," said Bob Doll, chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management.
SECTOR WATCH: Seven of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 fell. Telecommunications stocks declined the most. Utilities stocks led the gainers.
GETTING DRILLED: Several offshore oil drilling and services companies declined. Ensco shed $1.10, or 3.7 percent, to $28.66. Nabors Industries shed 67 cents, or 5 percent, to $12.85. Transocean fell 84 cents, or 4.9 percent, to $16.18.
FLAT TIRE: Shares in Cooper Tire & Rubber fell 5.3 percent after the tire maker reported fourth-quarter earnings that fell short of what Wall Street analysts had expected. The stock shed $2.01 to $35.70.
DRUGMAKERS COMBINE: Shares in Valeant Pharmaceuticals International surged a day after the Canadian drugmaker announced it has agreed to buy Salix Pharmaceuticals for about $10 billion in cash. Valeant rose $31.52, or 14.5 percent, to $248.93. Shares in Salix slipped $1.98, or 1.3 percent, to $155.87.
BACK TO BLACK: Tower Semiconductor reported a profit during its fourth quarter after reporting a loss in the same period a year earlier. Shares in the chipmaker vaulted $2.19, or 16 percent, to $15.87.
SELLING MOOD: Polypore International surged 12.8 percent on news the company is selling its energy storage business to Asahi Kasei for $2.2 billion after it sells another segment to 3M for $1 billion. The stock gained $6.77 to $59.72.
APPLE INVESTMENT: Shares in Apple rose on news that the iPhone maker will invest about $2 billion in data centers in Denmark and Ireland that will power iTunes and other online services. The stock added $2.69, or 2.1 percent, to $132.19.
OVERSEAS MARKETS: In Europe, France's CAC 40 rose 0.7 percent and Germany's DAX gained 0.7 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 was flat. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.7 percent and South Korea's Kospi rose 0.4 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was little changed after trading reopened following Lunar New Year holidays.
GREECE'S DEAL: Greece's new government was expected to send creditors a list of reforms tied to the latest bailout pact early Tuesday. The list was required as part of an agreement reached Friday to extend Greece's bailout deals for four months and provide Athens with vital loan payments needed to repay its debts.
ENERGY: The price of oil fell for the fourth day in a row as the return of a Libyan oil field raised expectations for more oil supply. Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.36 to close at $49.45 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.32 to close at $58.90 in London.
In other futures trading on the NYMEX:
— Wholesale gasoline rose 0.5 cent to close at $1.646 a gallon.
— Heating oil rose 10.6 cents to close at $2.218 a gallon.
— Natural gas fell 7.2 cents to close at $2.879 per 1,000 cubic feet.
METALS: Precious and industrial metals futures closed slightly lower. Gold fell $4.10 to $1,200.80 an ounce, silver fell two cents to $16.25 an ounce and copper edged down less than a penny to $2.59 a pound.
BONDS: U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.06 percent from 2.11 percent late Friday.