Wall Street slips as energy stocks drag, Fed meet awaited

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Wall Street was slightly lower on Monday as a fall in oil prices weighed on energy stocks and investors paused ahead of the release of a slew of economic data and the U.S. Federal Reserve's monetary policy meeting.

Crude prices, which have dictated the direction of the stock market this year, fell about 3 per cent after Iran quashed hopes of a quick deal by major producers to freeze output.

Steadying oil prices and data pointing to strengthening U.S. economy have helped stocks recover from a steep selloff at the start of the year. The S&P 500 is now down only 1 percent in 2016, after falling as much as 10.5 per cent.

"You have a little pullback this morning and I don't see it as anything more than that, unless something material, i.e. the Fed goes back on their word, come Wednesday," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital in Bernardsville, New Jersey. "Right now, it looks to be like a healthy pullback and a little profit-taking off the strength on Friday," Mr Bakhos said.

The S&P and the Dow recorded their highest close of 2016 on Friday.

At 9:38 a.m. ET (9:38 pm Singapore time), the Dow Jones industrial average was down 30.88 points, or 0.18 per cent, at 17,182.43, the S&P 500 was down 5.46 points, or 0.27 per cent, at 2,016.73 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 9.02 points, or 0.19 per cent, at 4,739.45.

Eight of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower, led by a 1.08 per cent fall in the energy sector.

The Bank of Japan began a two-day meeting on Monday and is expected to keep policy unchanged after adopting negative interest rates in late January.

Shares of Starwood Hotels & Resorts were up 7.8 per cent at US$75.88 (S$104.10) after the hotel operator received a takeover offer of US$76 per share from a consortium of companies. Marriott , which was set to take over Starwood, was up 2.5 percent at US$70.58.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,729 to 919. On the Nasdaq, 1,341 issues fell and 879 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed five new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 13 new highs and 11 lows.