Stocks slip after consumer confidence weakens

KEN SWEET AP Markets Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks slipped in early 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 20 points, or 0.1 percent, at 16,184 in the first hour of trading. The S&P 500 lost three points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,844 and the Nasdaq composite lost five points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,288.

CONSUMERS SHAKEY: The Conference Board's index of consumer confidence fell to 78.1 in February from 80.7 the month before, less than the 80.1 level economists 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 $2.71, or 6 percent, to $45.62 after the company reported a quarterly loss in the fourth quarter. Tenet took on more debt because of an acquisition and a stock repurchase.

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 21 percent.

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.