Wall Street dips as focus turns to Fed; energy stocks drag

 Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 11, 2016.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 11, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Wall Street was lower on Tuesday as a slide in oil prices dragged down energy stocks and investors kept to the sidelines ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy meeting.

Global markets fell and the yen rose as investors sought safe havens after the Bank of Japan's lowered inflation expectations suggested it may increase its stimulus program. "We just overcame two very volatile months and investors are just stepping back a little bit, digesting data and figuring out where to best be positioned for the next six-nine months," said Brian Fenske, head of sales trading at ITG in New York.

Data on Tuesday showed retail sales dipped 0.1 per cent in February, less than the 0.2 per cent drop estimated, but a sharp downward revision to January's sales could reignite concerns about the economy's growth prospects.

The Fed is not expected to raise interest rates at its two-day meeting, which starts on Tuesday, but its comments will be parsed for clues on the path of future hikes.

At 9:38 a.m. ET (9:38 p.m Singapore time), the Dow Jones industrial average was down 99.81 points, or 0.58 per cent, at 17,129.32, the S&P 500 was down 12.59 points, or 0.62 per cent, at 2,007.05 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 25.15 points, or 0.53 per cent, at 4,725.13.

The selloff was broad-based, with all 10 major S&P sectors lower, led by a more than 1 percent fall in the materials and energy sectors.