* Banks start reporting results on Thursday
* Industrials, materials, financials down, defensive sectors
* S&P 500 ends below 50-day moving average
* Indexes down: Dow 0.3 pct, S&P 0.4 pct, Nasdaq 0.5 pct
(Updates to close)
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, April 12 U.S. stocks eased on
Wednesday and the S&P 500 closed below a key technical level for
the first time since Election Day, pressured by lingering
geopolitical concerns and President Donald Trump's comments on
the dollar and interest rates.
Trump said in a Wall Street Journal interview that the
dollar "was getting too strong," though he also said he would
like to see interest rates stay low.
The dollar, which has risen along with prospects for higher
rates, hurts profits at U.S. multinationals when it strengthens.
"Markets don't like uncertainty" said Peter Tuz, president
of Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"This just kind of added another wild card into the mix in a
way, whether there will be actions taken to keep the dollar from
Investors sought shelter in defensive shares and other
low-risk assets. Industrials and materials were the biggest
drags on the market along with financials, while utilities,
staples and telecommunications gave the S&P 500 its biggest
The S&P financial index was down 0.9 percent a day
ahead of results from three major banks in what will mark the
start of the corporate earnings season. Analysts are expecting
earnings to have risen 10 percent for all S&P 500 companies in
the first quarter, Thomson Reuters data shows.
The materials and industrials indexes
both ended more than 1 percent lower on the day.
The S&P 500 closed below its 50-day moving average, a
closely watched indicator of the intermediate-term trend, for
the first time since Nov. 8. At the same time, gold and the CBOE
Volatility index, Wall Street's fear gauge, rose.
Rising U.S. tensions with Russia, North Korea and Syria
after U.S missile strikes in Syria last week and the moving of
U.S. warships toward the Korean Peninsula have kept investors
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 59.44
points, or 0.29 percent, to 20,591.86, the S&P 500 lost
8.85 points, or 0.38 percent, to 2,344.93 and the Nasdaq
Composite dropped 30.61 points, or 0.52 percent, to
Investors are concerned these developments could distract
Trump from pursuing pro-business policies such as tax cuts,
simpler regulations and higher infrastructure spending, promises
that have powered Wall Street to record highs since his election
Wells Fargo, Citigroup and JPMorgan are due to
report results on Thursday, the last trading day of the week
ahead of the Good Friday holiday.
Delta Air Lines closed down 0.5 percent at $45.05
despite a better-than-expected quarterly profit and an upbeat
forecast for current-quarter passenger unit revenue.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a
2.16-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.23-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 12 new 52-week highs and one new low; the
Nasdaq Composite recorded 51 new highs and 42 new lows.
About 6.2 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges,
compared with the 6.6 billion daily average for the past 20
trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.
(Additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru
and Lewis Krauskopf in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish)