Wall Street closes lower

Geopolitical concerns weigh on major bourses, US stocks close lower.

US stocks declined on Monday as investors hit the pause button after Friday's sharp gains.

At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 48.45 points, or 0.3%, to 17,051.73.

The S&P 500 index retreated 4.59 points, or 0.2%, to 1,973.63, while the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 7.44 points, or 0.2%, to 4,424.70.

Traders said that investors were taking stock after Friday's rally, rather than selling on fundamental worries about military action in Ukraine or the Middle East. Both the Dow industrials and the S&P 500 rose last week, underscoring the stock market's resilience in the face of rising geopolitical tensions.

"The buying was very ferocious on Friday," said Jeff Yu, head of single-stock derivatives trading at UBS. "A lot of this is giveback."

A handful of negative headlines weighed on consumer stocks. McDonald's fell 1.5% and Yum Brands 4.3% after the fast food chains suspended purchases in China, on allegations a meat supplier sold expired chicken and beef to restaurants. McDonald's reports earnings on Tuesday before the market opens.

Toy maker Hasbro and theme park operator Six Flags Entertainment declined 2.7% and 4.1%, respectively, after missing analyst forecasts for second quarter sales.

Small shares were hit as well, with the Russell 2000 index of small-capitalisation stocks down 0.4%.

Broadly, though, US stocks have been notably stable in recent sessions. Shares have been boosted by improving economic data, an accommodative Federal Reserve and persistently low interest rates.

"Investors want stocks, and they're using any kind of slight selloff as a reason to increase their exposure," said Sam Stovall, US equity strategist with S&P Capital IQ. His clients are saying, "Where else do I go?" he said.

Much of the week's attention among investors is expected to turn to second quarter earnings. Many investors say the current earnings season will be a key factor that determines whether recent stockmarket gains can continue. Twelve Dow industrials components and 146 S&P 500 companies are set to post earnings this week, including Apple, Microsoft and Ford, according to FactSet.

"This is peak earnings season week," said Doug Cote, chief market strategist at Voya Investment Management. "I'm expecting continued good news. My expectation is that we're going to handily beat consensus earnings."

Analysts polled by FactSet expect earnings among S&P 500 companies to rise 5.1% in the quarter.

Meanwhile, geopolitical clashes continued. Over the weekend, fighting escalated between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Leaders in Europe threatened new sanctions against Russia after the US tied last week's downing of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner to pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine.

No major US economic data are scheduled for release on Monday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note eased to 2.473%.

In commodity markets, gold futures rose 0.3% to $US1313.70 an ounce, while crude-oil futures gained 1.4%, to $US104.59 a barrel.

European shares also extended recent losses, with the Stoxx Europe 600 down 0.5%.

Among other stock movers, shares of EMC rose 5%. The hedge fund Elliott Capital Management has taken a more than $US1 billion stake in the data-storage company and is planning to push for a breakup of the company, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Allergan outlined plans to cut 13% of its workforce, part of a restructuring plan intended to save $475 million next year as the Botox maker continues to try to stave off Valeant Pharmaceuticals International. Allergan shares gained 2.2%.

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