NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks lost ground on Monday, with two benchmark indexes retreating from record highs, after a closely watched manufacturing gauge unexpectedly declined in March.
The Institute for Supply Management's factory index fell to 51.3 percent in March from 54.2 percent in February. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast the ISM to match February's level of 54.2 percent. Any figure over 50 percent signals expansion.
Separately, Markit's reading of U.S. manufacturing in March came in at 54.6 percent, less than the 55 percent level analysts had expected.
Another report had construction spending climbing in February.
"The ISM number is a little bit of a disappointment. Construction is still good. Don't fight the Fed on the construction front; they want to prop up the builder and that part of the economy," said Nick Raich, chief executive officer
at the Earnings Scout.
"Right now, it seems people are waiting for employment numbers and earnings season," he added. The Labor Department will release its March report on nonfarm payrolls and the unemployment rate on Friday.
The Dow Jones industrial average ended down 5.69 points, or less than 0.1 percent, at 14,572.85.
More than half components finished in the red, led by Intel Corp., down 1.9 percent, and Hewlett-Packard Co., off 2.2 percent. The S&P 500 index fell 7.02 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,562.17. After ending March at an all-time high and recording its best quarterly rise in a year, the S&P 500 remains below its intraday high of 1,576.09. The Nasdaq composite index lost 28.35 points, or 0.9 percent, to 3,239.17 on Monday, as Apple Inc. shares dropped 3.1 percent.