NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks fell as declines in technology and consumer-discretionary companies offset a rebound in energy shares before Wednesday's monetary decision by Federal Reserve policy makers.
For a second day, investors were whipsawed by the biggest stock swings in two months. The S&P 500 fell 0.7 percent in the first 10 minutes of trading then rebounded, surging as much as 1.4 percent as crude erased losses. The index reversed gains in the early afternoon, climbed again and then headed lower in the final hour. The 44-point move from top to bottom is the biggest for any day since mid-October, when the index was ending its worst retreat in 2014.
Microsoft, Google and Facebook dropped at least 2.8 percent as technology shares slumped. Amazon.com lost 3.4 percent. Range Resources, Nabors Industries and Diamond Offshore Drilling paced gains among energy companies. Boeing, 3M and CVS Health increased more than 1.7 percent after raising their dividends.
The S&P 500 fell 0.8 percent to 1,973.07. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 103.14 points, or 0.6 percent, to 17,077.70. The technology-heavy Nasdaq 100 index tumbled 1.6 percent. Trading in S&P 500 companies was 39 percent above the 30-day average for this time of the day.
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"There continues to be a backdrop of the U.S. economy improving and we'll probably see some confirmation from the Fed on that," Jim Dunigan, chief investment officer at PNC Bank, which oversees $130 billion, said by phone from Philadelphia. "We're trading a lot on headlines and much of that has been dominated by crude, credit and currencies, so not exactly the fundamentals to make good equity decisions."
Global stocks fell earlier Tuesday, with emerging-market equities retreating as much as 1.8 percent, as the benchmark for U.S. oil slid below $54 a barrel. The ruble plunged past 70 to the dollar for the first time as investors shrugged off a surprise Bank of Russia decision to take its key interest rate to 17 percent from 10.5 percent. Treasuries rose.
Equities also fell after a Chinese factory gauge declined to a seven-month low in December and an index of French manufacturing
shrank more this month than estimated.
"All the markets are incredibly volatile Monday from gold to Treasuries to junk bond spreads, stocks and currencies," Jim Paulsen, who helps oversee $345 billion as chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management, said by phone from San Francisco. "If oil shows some signs of support, which we did today, you have a lot of people coming in behind it. If it breaks down, you have people getting out not wanting to catch a falling knife."
The Chicago Board Options Exchange volatility index, also known as the VIX, added 14 percent to 23.19. The gauge jumped the most in four years last week. The VIX closed at a three-month low on Dec. 5.
Energy shares surged 1.2 percent Tuesday. The group has lost 15 percent over the past month, and has plunged 25 percent from a June high. Crude fell about 45 percent this year as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries sought to defend market share amid a U.S. shale boom that's exacerbating a global glut. West Texas Intermediate ended little changed Tuesday.
Thirty-eight of 43 members in the S&P 500 energy index advanced. Chevron jumped 1.4 percent.
"The energy sector's been hit so hard that it's not going to take much for those stocks to turn around," Ben Wallace, a portfolio manager at Westborough, Massachusetts-based Grimes & Co., said by phone.
The S&P 500 is down 4.1 percent for the month, heading for its first December loss since 2007, after reaching an all-time high on Dec. 5. The gauge is still up 7.3 percent for the year amid better-than-forecast earnings and economic data.
While concern is growing about the strength of the global economy as tumbling oil prices hold down inflation, U.S. central bankers have reason to be upbeat about 2015 as they gather for a policy meeting Tuesday and Wednesday.
The U.S. economy is forecast to expand at a 2.9 percent pace, the fastest in a decade, according to a survey by Bloomberg, while falling gasoline prices leave consumers more money to spend on other goods, boosting confidence and retail sales.
Data in the U.S. Tuesday showed new-home construction exceeded a 1 million annualized pace in November for a third consecutive month, continuing a slow recovery in the housing market.
The Fed will look past low inflation and drop a pledge to keep interest rates near zero for a "considerable time" as it seeks an exit from the loosest monetary policy in its 100-year history, economists said before the central bank's policy decision Wednesday.
Five of 10 major groups in the S&P 500 declined Tuesday, with technology and consumer-discretionary shares slumping at least 1.1 percent.
Boeing added 1.7 percent after boosting a stock buyback plan to $12 billion and raising its quarterly dividend by 25 percent. CVS Health jumped 2.9 percent to $92.50, the highest ever, after announcing a buyback plan of as much as $10 billion and increasing its dividend by 27 percent. 3M advanced 1.7 percent. The maker of Post-it notes and Scotch tape also boosted its dividend as it projected a gain in 2015 profit.
Whirlpool declined 5 percent as the company revised its 2014 earnings projection to between $10.90 and $11.10, compared with an earlier estimate of between $11.50 and $12. The maker of home appliances cited "unfavorable" currencies and expenses related to two acquisitions.
With assistance from Inyoung Hwang in London and Oliver Renick in New York.