US stocks shift lower in midday trading

ALEX VEIGA AP Business Writer Published:

Major stock indexes slid into negative territory in midday trading on Tuesday as investors mulled over a downbeat survey on the homebuilding industry, tensions in Ukraine and the latest batch of corporate earnings. A decline in Facebook, Google, Apple and other tech stocks contributed to the market slide, which wiped out early gains.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell eight points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,822 as of 12:16 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average shed 66 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,106. The Nasdaq dropped 51 points, or 1.3 percent, to 3,971.

HOUSING HO-HUM: A key gauge of U.S. homebuilders' confidence in the housing market rose modestly in April but remained low for the third straight month. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index edged up to 47 this month from 46 in March. Readings below 50 mean builders view sales conditions as poor. Builders expect sales to improve over the spring and summer. The survey results sent homebuilders lower. Ryland Group was among the biggest decliners. Ryland fell $1.32, or 3.4 percent, to $37.48.

TECHN SLUMP: Eight of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index fell. Apple, Google, eBay and Hewlett-Packard were among the stocks weighing down the index. Facebook shed $1.88, or 3.2 percent, to $57.03.

BIG DECLINERS: Among the stocks posting the biggest declines in the S&P 500 index were First Solar, which fell $3.77, or about 5.5 percent, to $64.55. TV streaming service Netflix slumped $16.40, or about 5 percent, to $315.30. Wynn Resorts plunged $12.35, or 5.8 percent, to $198.10.

HEALTHY RESULTS: Johnson & Johnson's first-quarter profit rose 8 percent because of restrained costs and a jump in prescription drug sales. The world's biggest maker of health care products topped Wall Street expectations and raised its earnings outlook. Its stock rose $1.04, or 1.1 percent, to $98.18.

"So far earnings season has progressed nicely. We're looking for healthy earnings growth and, so far we're getting it," said Anastasia Amoroso, global market strategist at JPMorgan Chase. "But there's a bit of a tug-of-war with what's happening internationally."

COKE: Coca-Cola said strong sales of noncarbonated drinks such as juice helped offset a first-quarter decline in global soda volume. A stronger dollar contributed to an 8 percent decline in profit for the world's biggest beverage maker. But the company's adjusted results for the quarter were in line with Wall Street expectations. Coca-Cola rose $1.63, or 4.2 percent, to $40.36.

UKRAINE TENSIONS: Beyond balance sheets, investors were tuned into the developing situation in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian insurgents dug in Tuesday, fortifying positions around seized buildings. Western governments have accused Moscow of fueling the unrest in eastern Ukraine and worry that any bloodshed could be used as a pretext for a Russian invasion, in a repeat of events in Crimea a few weeks ago.

INFLATION IN CHECK: Lower U.S. gasoline prices kept consumer inflation in check last month, helping offset higher costs for food and clothing. The Labor Department said that the consumer price index rose 0.2 percent in March, after scant 0.1 percent increases in each of the previous two months.

YELLEN SPEAKS: Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says that recent initiatives by the central bank and other regulators to help lenders make it through periods of financial stress are important, but they may still need to be strengthened. Yellen's comments early Tuesday came in an address delivered by video to a financial markets conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve's regional bank in Atlanta.

BONDS: In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 2.61 percent from 2.65 percent late Monday.