NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks ended slightly lower Tuesday, reversing course late in the session as strength in the dollar offset optimism about deal news.
The S&P utilities sector, which helped lead gains Monday, was the biggest drag on the S&P 500, closing down 1.1 percent.
The dollar recovered from recent losses, reaching session highs in afternoon trading. That shifted investor focus again to worries about its impact on U.S. earnings.
"If the [dollar] move is gradual it shouldn't impact stocks too much, as companies will have a chance to hedge against the impact, but a sharp rise will have an impact," said Tony Roth, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust in Wilmington, Delaware.
Stocks were in positive territory for most of the session, lifted by deal news that suggested companies still see value in the market.
Shares of FedEx (FDX) rose 2.7 percent to $171.16 as it seeks to buy Dutch package delivery company TNT Express for $4.8 billion.
Two years ago, competition regulators blocked United Parcel Service's (UPS) bid for TNT because, unlike FedEx, that suitor already had a strong European network.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 5.43 points, or 0.03 percent, to 17,875.42, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) lost 4.29 points, or 0.21 percent, to 2,076.33 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 7.08 points, or 0.14 percent, to 4,910.23.
While a strong U.S. dollar is a sign of solid fundamentals, analysts are concerned that the currency will weigh on the earnings of U.S. multinational companies. Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC) cut its 2015 earnings estimates for the S&P 500 by $2 a share, citing the foreign exchange headwind.
Stocks Making Moves
General Motors (GM) shares fell 2.5 percent to $35.73 and the stock was among the day's most active after Canada agreed to sell nearly 73.4 million shares of the automaker to Goldman Sachs (GS).
Other decliners included shares of Viacom (VIA-B), which fell 1.9 percent to $67.28 after it halted its $20 billion repurchase program as it embarks on a restructuring that includes cutting jobs and reorganizing three of its domestic network groups.
Shares of Twitter (TWTR) jumped 4 percent to $52.87 and hit their highest in six months following a Barron's report that the company has hired advisers to fend off a takeover bid.
Informatica (INFA) jumped 4.3 percent to $47.79 after the enterprise software provider said it would be taken private by Permira Advisers and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,699 to 1,352, for a 1.26-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,457 issues fell and 1,267 advanced for a 1.15-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 9 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq composite was recording 68 new highs and 24 new lows.
About 5.7 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, compared with the 6.3 billion daily average for the month to date, according to data from BATS Global Markets.
-With additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica.
What to watch Wednesday:
The Federal Reserve releases minutes from its March interest-rate meeting.
8 Best Buys in April
Market Wrap: Stocks Slip, Dollar Gains Mute Deal Optimism
It may seem like a strange trio, but these three items are less expensive than normal this month. "April is soy awareness month," notes Teri Gault, CEO of The Grocery Game and expert in grocery savings and supermarket trends. "Because of this, many stores offer terrific sales on all sorts of soy items, so be sure to check your coupons and sales for specials." Ham is cheaper in the weeks leading up to Easter. Asparagus is cheaper because it's in season. Gault says to buy extra and freeze the green stuff for omelets, quiche and soup.
"For the best savings on Easter items, wait until after April 5 to stock up on holiday-related merchandise," advises Kendal Perez, savings expert with CouponSherpa.com. He says you can save 50 percent or more on consumer favorites, including those adorable Peeps and all-things Easter decor. "The savings will only get deeper as the month progresses, though the inventory will plummet as well."
The thought of taxes may send you into a nervous, stressful panic, even if you're getting a refund. To help placate the masses, "many businesses give their own 'tax breaks' on April 15 by offering deals and freebies to their customers," says Howard Schaffer, vice president of Offers.com. "Look for deals in a variety of businesses, especially restaurants and fast food chains."
Speaking of taxes, many business are founded in mid-April, just after Tax Day. "Newly formed organizations require office supplies, so expect office supply stores to have sales on office furniture, furnishings and desk supplies," says Jon Lal, CEO and founder of BeFrugal.com.
"April is the best time to score a deal on vacuum cleaners," says David Bakke, consumer expert at MoneyCrashers.com. "Retailers target the notion of spring cleaning and therefore offer these machines at discounts." This is also the month that new models are introduced, so last year's models are likely on sale. Consider shopping at a second-hand store for recently donated vacuum cleaners, as people replace their old ones.
"Cruel as it my have seemed, spring apparel debuted in February, tempting us with pretty florals and lightweight fabrics despite still-frigid temperatures," says Perez. "Typically items go on sale two months after they arrive, so mid-April offers both price relief and more appropriate weather for spring's latest trends." Keep your eye out for markdowns between 20 and 40 percent off, and note that deeper discounts may show up in May (though stock will have dwindled by this point).
'Tis the season to cultivate your garden and reignite your green finger. Warmer weather makes for growing season, as you know. Not only will you find that seeds, garden-supplies, soil and the like are a plenty, you'll also find noteworthy discounts on all of the above. Not to mention, you'll save plenty of money by harvesting your own herbs and vegetables vs. buying everything in stores.
Many runners pick up their calorie-burning habit after the weather heats up, which is right around late March through April. Retailers have taken note of this trend and offer enticing deals. "Last year, for example, Finish Line offered a coupon valid through the end of April offering $20 off orders of $125 or more," says Perez.