S&P 500 falls to rare loss, hurt by weak bank stocks

People walk past an electronic board showing Hong Kong share index outside a local bank in Hong Kong, Monday, April 15, 2019. Asian markets were broadly higher Monday on signs that the U.S. and China were closing in on a trade deal after months of negotiations. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

U.S. stock indexes edged lower on Monday, pulled down by sinking bank stocks, and the S&P 500 fell for just the third time in the last three weeks.

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Goldman Sachs recorded one of the largest losses in the S&P 500 after describing a "muted start to the year," even though its earnings for the first quarter still beat analysts' expectations. Citigroup also slipped following its earnings report, as banks lead off a quarterly reporting season that analysts expect to be the weakest in nearly three years.

The S&P 500 lost 1.83 points, or 0.1%, to 2,905.58. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 27.53, or 0.1%, to 26,384.77, and the Nasdaq composite lost 8.15, or 0.1%, to 7,976.01. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks dropped 5.63, or 0.4%, to 1,579.17.

The S&P 500 nevertheless remains within 0.9% of its record following its torrid start to the year, after the Federal Reserve said it may not raise interest rates at all in 2019.

"I think we're going to see equities continue to confound their critics and advance," said Margie Patel, senior portfolio manager at Wells Fargo Asset Management.

She expects growth for both the economy and corporate earnings to reaccelerate later this year, in large part because of the Federal Reserve's pledge to hit pause on interest rate hikes. That follows seven increases in the last two years, including the last one in December, that raised worries about a possible recession and helped send the S&P 500 to a nearly 20% loss at one point.

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"If you look through history, recessions have been precipitated by the Federal Reserve tightening and causing recessions — telling banks, 'Don't make loans' and pulling out liquidity," she said. "This time, they got right up to the brink, and when the market had that violent reaction in December, that made them rethink their approach."

Optimism has also grown that the U.S. and China can resolve their trade dispute. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Saturday that the world's two largest economies were moving closer to an agreement.

Some of the market's biggest losses Monday came from the financial sector. Lighter trading activity during the first three months of the year meant that Goldman Sachs' revenue fell short of analysts' estimates, and its shares lost 3.8%.

Like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup also reported stronger profit for the first three months than analysts expected. But its stock slipped 0.1%.

Alliance Data Systems sank to the largest loss in the S&P 500 after it agreed to sell its Epsilon business to Publicis Groupe for $4.4 billion in cash, less than what some analysts had valued the business at. Alliance Data Systems lost 9.3%.

On the winning side was Waste Management, which jumped after it agreed to buy its smaller rival, Advanced Disposal, for $3 billion. It will also assume $1.9 billion of debt in the deal.

Waste Management rose 2.4%, and Advanced Disposal surged 17.9%.

The yield on the 10 year Treasury note held steady at 2.55%. It has been climbing since late last month, when it fell to 2.37% amid a crescendo of worries that global economic growth was slowing.

Asian stock markets were mixed, with the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo jumping 1.4%, South Korea's Kospi gaining 0.4% and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong losing 0.3%.

European markets were listless. The FTSE 100 in London was virtually flat, and the French CAC 40 rose 0.1%, while Germany's DAX was up 0.2%.

In the commodities markets, the price of oil gave back some of its big gains for the year. Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 49 cents to settle at $63.40. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 37 cents to $71.18. Both remain up more than 30% for the year.

Natural gas slipped 7 cents to $2.59 per 1,000 cubic feet, heating oil slipped a penny to $2.06 per gallon and wholesale gasoline fell 3 cents to $2.01 per gallon.

Gold fell $3.90 to $1,291.30 per ounce, silver rose a penny to $14.98 per ounce and copper slipped 1 cent to $2.94 per pound.

The dollar slipped to 112.03 Japanese yen from 112.08 yen late Friday. The euro rose to $1.1304 from $1.1296, and the British pound inched up to $1.0041 from $1.0029.

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AP Writer Annabelle Liang contributed from Singapore.

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