U.S. stocks falter for second day


U.S. stocks sank for a second day Tuesday as the fourth-quarter earnings season opened and as confidence slipped after last week’s big gains.

At the close, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 55.44 points, or 0.41 percent, to 13,328.85. The Standard and Poor’s 500 fell 4.74, or 0.32 percent, to 1,457.15, while the Nasdaq index lost 7.00, or 0.23 percent, to 3,091.81.

The fall paralleled the trend around the world, with markets in Asia and Europe mostly finishing modestly lower in the absence of much positive news.

Wariness held sway as the fourth-quarter earnings season opened Tuesday, with Alcoa releasing its results after the closing bell. Alcoa turned in income of $242 million, up from a loss a year earlier, despite falling aluminum prices.

Monsanto shares surged 2.7 percent after it reported a 169 percent rise in profit for its fiscal first quarter, ended Nov. 30, on strong genetically modified corn seed sales in the United States and Latin America. Biotech and pharmaceutical company Celgene gained 6.6 percent after raising its guidance for 2012 income and earning an upgrade from analysts at RBC Capital Markets.

But retailer Sears Holdings sank 6.4 percent after the company announced that Chief Executive Lou D’Ambrosio, whom investors had hoped would engineer a turnaround, was leaving due to family illness. Edward Lampert, a hedge fund billionaire, will replace him. Boeing shares fell 2.6 percent as attention focused on a fire that broke out in one of its new 787 Dreamliner aircraft as it sat empty at a Boston airport Monday.

Earlier in Europe, Germany’s DAX shed 0.5 percent to close at 7,695.83, Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.2 percent to 6,053.63 and France’s CAC 40 ended flat at 3,705.88. The euro edged down 0.3 percent to $1.3075.