NEW YORK -- Disappointing company earnings and falling oil prices pulled stocks back from record highs on Tuesday.
NRG Energy slumped after the company lowered its earnings forecast, leading other power companies lower. News Corp. fell after the media company posted an unexpected revenue decline due to weakness at its Australian newspapers. Energy stocks fell after oil dropped to a five-month low.
Winners included airlines. The gains were led by JetBlue Airways, after the Justice Department said it cleared the way for American Airlines and US Airways to merge, creating the world's biggest airline.
This year's 24 percent surge in the stock market has slowed in November. The Standard & Poor's 500 has edged up 0.6 percent this month after an average monthly increase of 1.7 percent in the previous 10 months.
"The market looks tired to us," said Jim Russell, a regional investment director at US Bank. "A little bit of a pause is actually healthy," allowing the economy time to catch up to the gains the stock market has made.
After closing at an all-time high on three of the previous four trading days, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 32.43 points, or 0.2 percent, to 15,750.67. The S&P 500 index dropped 4.20 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,767 points. The Nasdaq composite edged up 0.13 point to 3,919.92.
Six of the 10 industry sectors in the S&P 500 index fell. Banks and utilities fell the most.
NRG Energy was one of the biggest decliners in the S&P 500, slipping 98 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $27.06. News Corp. fell 27 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $17.15.
Energy stocks fell broadly. Pioneer Natural Resources, an oil exploration company, dropped $5.63, or 3 percent, to $182.70. Chevron lost $1.20, or 0.9 percent, to $120.
Stocks have climbed this year as the Federal Reserve kept up its $85 billion-a-month of bond purchases to keep interest rates low and encourage borrowing and hiring. Now investors may start focusing more on an improving economy rather than the future of the Fed's economic stimulus program, said Joe Quinlan, chief market strategist for U.S. Trust Bank of America Private Wealth Management.
The U.S. economy expanded at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the third quarter, up from 2.5 percent in the previous quarter and more than economists anticipated, the government said reported last Thursday. That was followed last Friday by an unexpectedly strong October jobs report.
"Economic data has really come in strong of late," said Douglas Cote, chief market strategist at ING Investment Management. "There's a lot of room for this market to continue higher in 2014."
Investors will also be closely following the Senate Banking Committee's confirmation hearing for Janet Yellen on Thursday for clues about when the Fed may begin to scale back its economic stimulus. Yellen has been nominated to succeed Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, becoming the first woman to lead the U.S. central bank.
"Some discussion of tapering could well take place" next month, Fed Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said today in a radio interview with Bloomberg Radio. The Fed's last policy meeting of the year starts Dec. 18.
In U.S. government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed to 2.78 percent from 2.75 percent Friday. The bond market was closed Monday for the Veterans Day holiday.
In commodities trading, the price of oil slumped as the market anticipated another increase in domestic supplies. Oil fell $2.10, or 2.2 percent, to $93.04 a barrel, its lowest price in five months.
Among other stocks making big moves:
• Dean Foods, a major milk producer, dropped $1.51, or 7.7 percent, to $18.20 after cutting its profit forecast.
• JetBlue rose 47 cents, or 6.1 percent, to $8.16 after the government said it had reached a settlement with US Airways and American Airlines. Southwest Airlines rose 22 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $18.03. American and US Airways will have to give up take up and landing slots at major airports as part of the deal.
• D.R. Horton rose 85 cents, or 4.7 percent, to $18.91 after the home builder said that its net income rose 39 percent for its fiscal fourth quarter and that sales of new homes rose in October.