By Kate Gibson
U.S. stocks declined Tuesday as investors sought safer havens to plant their money, with worries flaring up about Europe's banks.
"Just as the glass appeared half-full last week, the glass is looking more like half-empty today," John Stoltzfus, an analyst at Ticonderoga Securities, wrote in a note.
"In Europe, investors are focusing on the concerns over implications for the region's economic health, financial sector and earnings coming from further austerity and fiscal reform," he said about reports that European banks might have more risky debt on their books than previously thought.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) fell 73.26 points to 10,374.6, with 24 of its 30 components losing ground. American Express Co. (AXP) led the blue-chip decliners; its shares were down 3.4%.
McDonald's Corp. (MCD) led the Dow's limited gains, with shares of the fast-food giant up 1.2% at $75.95, surpassing its prior record hit on Friday. The chain's gains came as troubled rival Burger King Holdings (BKC) last week agreed to sell itself to investment firm 3G Capital.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX) shed 8.88 points to 1,095.63, with financials weighing the most heavily among its 10 industry groups. Lincoln National Corp. (LNC), off 4%, was among the notable decliners.
The government on Tuesday announced it would sell warrants in Lincoln National and Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. (HIG) as the insurers finish their exit from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Barclays PLC (BCS) fell 5.6% after the British bank said American Robert Diamond Jr. would take over as chief executive next year.
Bucking the down trend, shares of Oracle Corp. (ORCL) advanced 5.6% after the database-software titan said it hired Mark Hurd, the former Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) chief, as one of its presidents.
The Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) slid 18.92 points to 2,214.83.
The dollar gained against the euro and gold, and U.S. Treasury prices rallied as Wall Street echoed moves from overseas with no domestic economic data on Tuesday's docket.
"One reason why euro-zone concerns are back in the spotlight are the strikes in France and London, protesting the austerity measures put in place," noted analysts at Action Economics.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures gained $8.20 to end at $1,259.3 an ounce, topping its record close reached in June. Crude futures were off 32 cents at $74.28 a barrel.
Treasury yields held steady after the government's sale of $33 billion in 3-year notes, awarded at a record low 0.79% rate.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note (UST10Y), a measure used in setting interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, fell to 2.622% as its price rose.
More than two stocks were on the decline for each issue rising on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume topped 410 million as of 1:50 p.m. Eastern.
Usually slow during the summer, trading volume has been particularly low of late, and did not show any immediate signs of picking back up as traders returned from their vacations after the Labor Day holiday.
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve releases its so-called Beige Book, offering a glimpse at regional economic activity, while on Thursday the government releases its weekly count of those filing initial claims for unemployment benefits.