Market Snapshot: Stocks end lower, post modest monthly gains

U.S. stocks ended mostly lower on Tuesday, as investors turned cautious on the last trading day of the month and ahead of key economic data releases this week.

The main indexes ended the month with small to modest gains.

“It appears investors were buying Treasurys and selling stocks today, taking some risk off the table. It could be that the market has interpreted better-than-expected consumer spending and housing data as an indication of a Fed rate hike coming sooner,” said Jennifer Ellison, principal at wealth-management firm BOS.

Consumer spending in April increased by the biggest amount in nearly seven years while home prices in March jumped.

The upbeat data came after Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen said Friday that an interest-rate rise in the coming months would probably be appropriate.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.48%  closed 86.09 points, or 0.5%, lower at 17,787.13 after notching a 130-point decline earlier. The drop was led by hefty declines in Du Pont DD, -2.62%  and Boeing Co. BA, -2.38%  The average eked out less than a 0.1% gain for the month, but stretched its win streak to four months.

The S&P 500 SPX, -0.10%  closed down 2.11 points, or 0.1%, to 2,096.95, with six of the 10 main sectors finishing in negative territory. Energy and materials sectors led the declines after a drop in oil prices. Sectors considered as defensive, such as utilities and telecoms, finished higher. The benchmark index gained 1.5% over the month, rising for a third straight month.

“Markets are struggling to find a catalyst to move them definitively either higher or lower. Easy profits of 2012-2014 have already been earned and we reached limits of how much monetary policy can reflate prices,” said Jeff Greenberg, macro strategist at UBS Securities.

Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.29%  was the only index to manage a daily gain, closing up 14.55 points, or 0.3%, at 4,948.05. The tech-heavy index advanced 3.6% over the month.

Read: The window for stock-market bears is closing rather quickly

Other markets: Oil futures CLN6, -1.01%  settled at $49.10 a barrel, down 23 cents, or 0.5%, after tapping a high of $50.10. For the month, prices finished roughly 6.9% above the $45.92 front-month contract settlement on April 29.

European stocks SXXP, -0.77% closed lower. Asian markets closed mostly up, with Chinese stocks SHCOMP, +3.34% boosted by optimism that index provider MSCI soon could include them in an influential global benchmark.

Read: Adding China to index might not be as bullish as investors think

Gold futures GCM6, +0.13%  ticked slightly higher, but lost nearly 6% over the month. A key dollar index DXY, +0.15% rose 0.3% to 95.83 helped rising expectations for a rate increase this summer.

Wingsuit pilot performs ‘human arrow’ over China’s Great Wall

(1:14)

American wingsuit pilot Jeb Corliss hit an apple-sized target suspended over the Great Wall of China on Sunday, flying at 120 miles an hour.

Economic news: Consumer spending rose 1% in April to mark the biggest gain in almost seven years, as Americans splurged on new cars and trucks. Higher gas prices also contributed.

Incomes rose by 0.4% for the third time in the first four months of 2016. The savings rate in April fell to 5.4% last month after hitting a four-year high in March. The PCE index, the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation barometer, rose 1.1% in the 12 months ended in April. That’s up from 0.8% in the prior month.

U.S. house prices jumped 0.9% in March, according to a price gauge released Tuesday.

See: Why the May jobs report won’t reflect a speedier economy

Individual movers: Shares in Medtronic PLC MDT, -1.48%  slipped 1.5% even after the maker of medical devices posted better-than-expected earnings before the open.

Great Plains Energy Inc. GXP, -5.87%  on Tuesday said it agreed to buyWestar Energy Inc. WR, +6.44%  for $8.6 billion, marking a big consolidation in the utilities sector XLU, +0.66% Westar shares rallied 6.4%, while Great Plains shares fell 5.8%.

In merger news in the drug industry, Jazz Pharmaceuticals PLC JAZZ, -0.35%  agreed to buy Celator Pharmaceuticals Inc. CPXX, +71.59%  in a $1.5 billion deal. Celator shares jumped 72%.

StemCells Inc. STEM, -81.19%  shares plunged 81% announcing plans to wind down operations.

—Victor Reklaitis in London contributed to this report.

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