May 8, 2018 / 4:54 PM / 2 months ago

US STOCKS-Wall St drops in choppy session on uncertainty over Iran deal

* Oil prices slide ahead of Trump decision at 2 p.m. ET

* CNN reports U.S. to stay in deal; NY Times reports pull out

* Indexes down: Dow 0.32 pct, S&P 0.31 pct, Nasdaq 0.25 pct

* Citigroup rises after ValueAct investment

* Comcast drops on news it will crash Disney-Fox deal (Changes comments, adds details, updates prices)

By Medha Singh and Sruthi Shankar

May 8 (Reuters) - Wall Street was lower in choppy trading on Tuesday afternoon, as oil prices slid on uncertainty over whether President Donald Trump would withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal.

Stocks were lower for most part of the morning before sharply paring losses after CNN reported Trump was expected to impose sanctions on Iran, but may also allow for "a grace period that may offer the deal's proponents an opening to negotiate."

But those moves evaporated just as quickly after the New York Times reported that Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron the United States was going to pull out.

Macron's office later said Trump had not given the French leader any indication of his decision. The announcement will be made at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT).

"We're getting conflicting reports about the Iran deal. The market will struggle until we get clarity on this," said Michael Antonelli, managing director, institutional sales trading at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee.

Crude prices were down more than 2 percent, easing from steeper losses after the CNN report. The S&P energy sector, which led a rally on Wall Street in the past two days, was down 0.7 percent.

"There's just a lot of uncertainty right now with respect to what the announcement will be and what the effect on oil prices could be as a result, so people are trading every which way," said John Carey, portfolio manager at Amundi Pioneer Asset Management in Boston.

At 12:36 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 77.12 points, or 0.32 percent, at 24,280.20, the S&P 500 was down 8.27 points, or 0.31 percent, at 2,664.36 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 18.18 points, or 0.25 percent, at 7,247.03.

The CBOE Volatility Index rose 0.28 points to 15.03, gaining for the first time in four sessions.

The S&P financial sector was up 0.6 percent, and along with the industrials group, was the only other gainer among the 11 major S&P sectors.

Citigroup rose 3.4 percent after activist investor ValueAct invested $1.2 billion in the bank, citing its low risk and reliable revenue.

Comcast fell 4.8 percent after Reuters reported the cable operator is preparing to make an all-cash offer for media assets that Twenty-First Century Fox has agreed to sell to Disney for $52 billion.

Disney, which is due to report its results after markets close, was down 1.4 percent. Fox's shares rose 0.1 percent.

The Dow Jones Transport Index jumped 0.8 percent on boost from logistics company Expeditors, which jumped 7.8 percent after reporting strong first-quarter earnings.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.54-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.05-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 15 new 52-week highs and seven new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 96 new highs and 32 new lows. (Reporting by Medha Singh and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Savio D'Souza, Sinead Carew and Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Anil D'Silva)

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