U.S. stocks slipped in quiet trading during the Veterans Day holiday, with merger news and a selloff in retail shares sparked by results from Macy's Inc. capturing the spotlight.
Macy's slumped the most in more than six years following a cut in its profit forecast, turning the tables on retailers after they ranked among yesterday's leaders. Apache Corp. tumbled more than 7 percent after rebuffing a buyout offer from Anadarko Petroleum Corp. Molson Coors Brewing Co. rallied as it stands to benefit from the mega-merger between Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and and SABMiller Plc.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 0.3 percent to 2,074.93 at 4 p.m. in New York, after swinging between gains and losses.
The S&P 500 has rebounded more than 11 percent after its first correction in four years, and came within 1 percent last week of a record reached in May. A measure of market volatility had its biggest drop ever in October, with equities posting their strongest month since 2011 as central banks worldwide pledged to support growth.
Markets have since leveled off as investors assess the potential impact of interest rates that could be higher in the U.S. as soon as next month. Traders are now pricing in a 68 percent chance of a rate increase at the Federal Reserve's next meeting in December, up from 56 percent a week ago before a stronger-than-expected October jobs report.
As the earnings season draws to a close, 74 percent of S&P 500 members that have reported beat profit expectations, while only 44 percent topped sales projections. Analysts now predict a 3.8 percent drop in profits for companies in the index, an improvement on estimates for a 7.2 percent slide at the start of the season. Cisco Systems Inc., Nordstrom Inc., Kohl's Corp. and Viacom Inc. are among companies scheduled to report on Thursday.
While investors sift for clues on the health of the economy, Macy's Inc.'s earnings report did little to inspire optimism in consumers' willingness to spend. Revenue at the the largest U.S. department-store company fell the most since 2010, which the retailer blamed on warm weather and weak traffic trends.