NEW YORK -- A rally over hopes for a debt-limit deal turned into a waiting game for investors.
One day after the Dow Jones industrial average had its best day this year, the stock market edged lower on Wednesday. Analysts say concerns about lifting the U.S. debt limit outweighed strong earnings from Apple and a slew of new corporate deals.
"In this environment, stringing together a few days like yesterday is going to be tough," said Brad Sorensen, director of market analysis at Charles Schwab.
Apparent progress on raising the U.S. debt limit launched a stock market rally Tuesday. The Dow jumped 202 points, its best day this year. But investors woke up Wednesday to find Washington still at a stalemate. And with less than two weeks before the government risks defaulting on its debt, they are finding it hard to continue the celebration.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 15.51 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 12,571.91.
The S&P 500 index dropped 0.89 point to 1,325.84. The Nasdaq fell 12.29 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,814.23.
Apple Inc. rose 2.7 percent after the company's income doubled last quarter. Sales of Apple's iPhones quadrupled in Asia.
The stock of Zillow, a real estate website, jumped 79 percent in its first day of trading to $35.77. Zillow's initial public offering of stock priced at $20 late Tuesday.
Clorox rose 2.4 percent after billionaire investor Carl Icahn raised his bid for the company to $80 a share. The consumer products company rejected his previous offer.
News of record earnings and new deals would usually brighten investors' mood, Sorenson said. In the current earnings season, for instance, some 75 percent of companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index have beaten analysts' estimates. But larger worries about debt troubles in the U.S. and Europe are holding the market back. "It's causing investors and businesses and consumers to be concerned about the future," he said.
European Union officials plan to meet at an emergency summit Thursday in Brussels. Many expect E.U. members to drum up a new aid package for Greece. Worries about Europe's debt crisis have plagued markets for months. The results of stress tests on European banks released last week failed to calm fears that the crisis could soon turn worse. The tests didn't take into account the possibility that most analysts are worried about: a default by Greece or Portugal, two of the countries most at risk.
E-Trade Financial Corp. gained 13.7 percent, more than any other stock in the S&P 500 index. E-Trade's largest shareholder urged the online discount brokerage to consider putting itself up for sale. In a letter to E-Trade disclosed in a regulatory filing, the money manager Citadel LLC called for changes to the company's board, saying E-Trade's "phenomenal franchise" had been "squandered."
Cleaning and pest-control services company Ecolab Inc. said it would buy the water treatment company Nalco Holding Co. for $5.4 billion. Nalco soared 24 percent while Ecolab dropped 7.3 percent.
Tuesday's rally turned the three major indexes positive for the month. The Dow and Nasdaq are now up more than 1 percent in July. The S&P 500 is up 0.4 percent.
Rising stocks outpaced falling ones by a small margin on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading volume was below average at 3.5 billion shares.