The S&P 500 and Nasdaq ended up slightly on Tuesday, breaking a three-day string of declines that marked their worst losses since 2011, while the Dow finished lower for a fourth session on lingering worries about global demand.
While the S&P closed in positive territory, it was well off its session highs of more than 1 percent and did little to put investors at ease about the market’s recent selloff.
The benchmark index has lost 6.6 percent since its September 18 record closing high and is now up just 1.6 percent for the year, while the Dow is down 1.6 percent since December 31.
“Today’s action is typical of a market that hasn’t completed its downward course,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
“In order for this market to escape further declines, we would have to see the market begin to stabilize and not slip in and out of the plus and minus column consistently.”
The selloff has been driven by a host of negative influences including the potential spread of Ebola, the effect of global economic weakness on US earnings and plunging oil prices.
The S&P energy index fell with oil prices, dragging down equities late in the session. The index is now down 20.1 percent from its June high, putting it in bear market territory.
Despite some early upbeat corporate results, concerns remain about the effect of a stronger dollar on global demand and US earnings, Cardillo said.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 5.88 points, or 0.04 percent, to 16,315.19, the S&P 500 gained 2.96 points, or 0.16 percent, to 1,877.7 and the Nasdaq Composite added 13.52 points, or 0.32 percent, to 4,227.17.
Citigroup, up 3.1 percent at USD 51.47, was among the top boosts to the benchmark S&P index after the bank posted better-than-expected quarterly results and said it would pull out of consumer banking in 11 markets.