FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2019, file photo trader Timothy Nick, left, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The U.S. stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, Sept. 17. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

US stocks stall as oil slides, investors get defensive

September 17, 2019 - 2:15 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stock indexes remained stalled in afternoon trading Tuesday ahead of a decision on interest rates by the Federal Reserve.

Oil prices are sharply lower. Saudi Arabia's energy minister says the country has regained half the production lost to a weekend attack.

Energy companies gave back some of Monday's big gains as the price of oil retreated. Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 5.1% to $59.64 a barrel, while Brent, the international benchmark, fell 5.6% to $65.18. Marathon Oil fell 7.5%, and oilfield services provider Halliburton lost 6.6%.

On Monday, oil prices spiked more than 14% over concerns that an attack on Saudi Arabia's biggest oil processing facility could limit supplies from the world's biggest oil exporter. Tuesday, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said 50% of the production knocked out by the attack has been restored.

Banks and industrial companies also fell slightly. JPMorgan shed 0.8%, and Caterpillar slipped 0.7%

Counterweighting those losses were gains for companies that sell things to consumers, who have been the driving force for the economy recently. Procter & Gamble rose 1.4%, and McDonald's gained 1.2%. Bonds rose and the yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.80% from 1.84% late Monday.

Volatile oil prices and the lingering U.S.-China trade dispute loom over the market as the Federal Reserve begins a two-day meeting to determine interest rate policy. Investors are expecting the central bank to cut its short-term rate on Wednesday to help protect the economy from threats to growth.

It would be the central bank's second such cut in two months after not cutting rates for a decade.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index was virtually flat, as of 1:50 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Index fell 13 points, or 0.1%, to 27,062. The Nasdaq rose 0.1%.

MARKET PAUSE: Stocks have so far pulled back this week after posting gains for the last three weeks. Those gains came as investors cheered the easing of tensions between the U.S. and China ahead of planned trade negotiations next month. But, investors are now waiting for comments from the Federal Reserve in order to better assess prospects for economic growth.

OVERSEAS: Stocks in Europe moved broadly lower after a new survey showed a decline in consumer confidence within Germany, the continent's largest economy. Chinese benchmarks led declines in Asia after the credit ratings agency Moody's downgraded Hong Kong, citing its recent political turmoil.

CRACKED GLASS: Corning fell 7.7% after the glassmaker warned investors that weak demand will likely hurt two of its units. The company expects lower third quarter volume for its display technologies unit, which makes display screens for electronic devices. It also expects a sales decline for its optical communications unit, which makes fiber optic cables.

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