Stocks mixed after consumer confidence weakens

KEN SWEET AP Markets Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks were mixed in mid-morning trading Tuesday as investors reacted to an unexpectedly steep decline in consumer confidence this month. The weak start came a day after the Standard & Poor's 500 index came within a point of closing at another record high.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 14 points, or 0.1 percent, at 16,194 as of 11:05 a.m. Eastern. The S&P 500 lost two points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,847 and the Nasdaq composite was up a point to 4,294.

CONSUMERS SHAKEY: The Conference Board's index of consumer confidence fell to 78.1 in February from 80.7 the month before. That was below the 80.1 level economists polled by FactSet were expecting. The report is a closely watched indicator of how likely consumers are to spend money and keep the economy moving forward.

SICKLY TENET: Hospital management company Tenet Healthcare fell $3.50, or 7 percent, to $45.62 after the company reported a loss in the fourth quarter. Tenet took on more debt because of an acquisition and a stock repurchase program.

HOME DEPOT, IMPROVING: The nation's largest home improvement chain rose $1.94, or 3 percent, to $79.78. While Home Depot reported a decline in net income from a year earlier, the results still beat analysts' expectations. Home Depot also raised its dividend by 21 percent.

DEFENSE CONTRACTOR WOES: Shares of several defense contractors fell following Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's announcement Monday that the size of the nation's armed forces would be reduced to below World War II levels. Northrup Grumman fell 1 percent, while Raytheon and Lockheed Martin fell 0.5 percent.

WEATHER EFFECT: Macy's rose $1.72, or 3 percent, to $54.78 after the company reported that its income rose 11 percent in the fourth quarter. However, the department store chain had a slowing of sales, citing the winter storms that hit most of the country in the last couple months.

BACK NEAR A RECORD HIGH: The S&P 500 barely missed hitting another record high on Monday. It closed at 1,847.61, less than a point from its record close of 1,848.38 set on Jan. 15. Both the Nasdaq and S&P 500 are positive for 2014, while the Dow is still down 2 percent.