NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks fell, giving the Standard & Poor's 500 Index its first four-day decline of the year, after energy shares dropped and Treasury yields jumped to a two-year high as investors awaited signals this week on the Federal Reserve's stimulus plans.
Apache tumbled 4.6 percent, leading energy stocks to the biggest decline among 10 groups in the S&P 500 as crude prices fell. Intel Corp. gained 1.7 percent after Piper Jaffray raised its rating on the shares. Edwards Group surged 18 percent after Atlas Copco agreed to buy the company for $1.2 billion.
The S&P 500 dropped 0.6 percent to 1,646.06 at 4 p.m. in New York, the lowest level since July 8. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 70.73 points, or 0.5 percent, to 15,010.74. About 5.3 billion shares exchanged hands on U.S. exchanges on Monday, 16 percent below the three-month average. The benchmark 10-year yield jumped to 2.88 percent.
"We are still in that dead zone where there is a void of catalysts -- no Fed, no earnings, summer holidays, etc.," Jeff Saut, the Tampa Bay-based chief investment strategist at Raymond James, wrote in a note to investors on Monday. He helps oversee about $400 billion "I think rallies are for selling on a trading basis, but remain quite bullish on the longer-term."
The S&P 500 declined 2.1 percent last week and the Dow average lost 2.2 percent, the largest weekly drop in 14 months, amid speculation the Fed will pare its bond-purchase program as the economy recovers.
The Federal Open Market Committee will release minutes of its July 30-31 meeting on Wednesday. Investors and analysts will be looking for clues on when central bankers plan to reduce their $85 billion in monthly asset purchases.
Officials will begin to trim buying at their Sept. 17-18 meeting, according to 65 percent of economists surveyed by Bloomberg on Aug. 9-13.
Central bankers and policy makers meet in Jackson Hole, Wyo., from Thursday through Saturday to discuss the global economy and monetary policy.
Fed stimulus helped propel the S&P 500 up more than 150 percent from its bear-market low in 2009. Benchmark indexes reached record highs on Aug. 2. The S&P 500 has dropped 3.7 percent since then, and is trading below its average price over the past 50 days.
Some 41 S&P 500 stocks had their 14-day relative-strength index below 30 at the end of last week, the most since Nov. 16, Bloomberg data show. RSI measures the degree to which gains and losses outpace each other and some analysts who watch charts to predict market moves consider a reading lower than 30 as indicating the stock has fallen too far too fast.
Of the 464 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings so far, 72 percent have topped analysts' estimates, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
About 55 percent have exceeded revenue projections. About 23 S&P 500 companies are scheduled to release quarterly results this week.
"This is the difficult period of a rest area for the market, which is the time right after earnings and just before some major policy debates," Chris Hyzy, who helps oversee about $325 billion as chief investment officer of U.S. Trust, said in a phone interview.
Energy shares had the largest decline Monday, dropping 1.5 percent.
West Texas Intermediate crude dropped for the first time in seven days as the threat of a storm in the Gulf of Mexico dissipated, removing a risk to oil and gas production in the area. Oil also slid because demand from U.S. refineries is declining as the peak gasoline-use period comes to an end. WTI capped the longest rising streak since April on Friday amid unrest in Egypt.