NEW YORK Major stock indexes dipped Tuesday as a flat consumer-confidence report gave investors little reason to extend the recent rally.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 43.90 points to close at 13,197.73, a loss of 0.3 percent. Bank of America fell 3.3 percent, the biggest drop in the Dow, after an analyst downgraded the stock.
Major indexes opened higher, then pulled back after 10 a.m., when the Conference Board said its index of consumer confidence plateaued in March. Higher gas prices offset the surging stock market. Around the same time, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Virginia reported that a measure of regional manufacturing plunged this month.
Other indexes edged lower. The Standard & Poors 500 index dropped 3.99 points to 1,412.52. The Nasdaq composite fell 2.22 points to 3,120.35.
More than four stocks fell for every three that rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading volume was well below average at 3.4 billion.
The S&P 500 index and the Nasdaq are up more than 1 percent for the week. The S&P 500 already has gained 12.3 percent to start the year. That three-month surge easily beats the 8 percent return most fund managers hope to make in a whole year. The Nasdaq is up even more for the year, 19.8 percent.
Brian Gendreau, market strategist at Cetera Financial, said the stock market still has room to go higher even after such a strong start.
Companies in the S&P 500 index are trading for around 13 times their expected earnings over the next year, below the average of 14.6 times over the last decade. And theres plenty of cash still tucked away in the Treasury market.
Compared to bonds, stocks remain very attractive, Gendreau said. That doesnt tell you if well get a move in a week or a month from now, but it does tell you that theres a lot of pent-up demand.
Earnings from Lennar Corp. pulled housing stocks up. The countrys third-largest builder reported quarterly profits that beat analysts estimates by delivering more houses and pulling in more orders. Lennar rose 4.7 percent, the best gain in the S&P 500 index. PulteGroup rose 3.6 percent, D.R. Horton 2.8 percent.
The economic reports on consumer confidence and regional manufacturing helped push up prices in the U.S. government debt market, where traders park funds when the economy looks sluggish. The 10-year Treasury note rose 53 cents for every $100 invested. The yield fell to 2.18 percent from 2.26 percent late Monday.