Wall St weaker on uncertainty

S&P posts longest losing streak in more than a month as investors struggle for direction on Fed stimulus, US debt ceiling fears.

United States stocks closed mostly lower as investors were held back by uncertainties surrounding Federal Reserve policy and budget discussions.

Weak regional manufacturing data contributed to earlier declines.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 66.79 points, or 0.43%, to 15,334.59 points. On Monday, the Dow fell 50 points, or 0.3% to suffer its first three-session losing streak in more than a month.

The S&P 500 index inched down 4.42 points, or 0.26%, to 1,697.42 points, marking its fourth consecutive negative session which is the S&P's longest losing streak since Aug. 19.

The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 2.97 points, or 0.08%, to 3,768.25 points.

The Conference Board's consumer-confidence index for September declined to 79.7 from a revised reading of 81.8 in August, versus expectations of a 79.8. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond's manufacturing index for September was zero, down from August's 14.

Clark Yingst, chief market analyst at brokerage firm Joseph Gunnar & Co., said the Fed created "significant uncertainty" by leaving stimulus measures intact, and by saying policy will remain dependent on incoming economic data.

"With the Fed staying data-dependent, the market will see increased volatility around economic data," Mr. Yingst said. "The Fed is not sending a positive message about its perception of the economy."

Mr. Yingst said the Richmond Fed data was a "disappointment," especially following previous strong regional manufacturing data.

Earlier, the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home-price index for July rose 12.4% from year-earlier levels, in line with expectations of a 12.5% increase.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 2.677% from 2.714% late Monday.

Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at US Bank Wealth Management, said "a wall of worry seems to have returned to the broad market" after the Fed decided last week to leave stimulus measures intact, as that implied a lack of confidence in the economy. "The budget and debt-ceiling discussions are still a work in progress," he said.

But while the next few weeks could be filled with "emotion, uncertainty and volatility," Mr. Sandven expects the market "will trade sideways with an upward bias through the end of the year."

"Risks remain, but we're moving toward resolution," he said.