US stocks finish lower after volatile session

NEW YORK (AFP) - US stocks on Tuesday finished lower following a topsy-turvy session amid unease over plunging oil prices and a crash in the Russian ruble.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell dropped 111.97 points (0.65 per cent) to 17,068.87.

The blue-chip index climbed as high as 17,427.44 in late morning before tumbling.

The broad-based S&P 500 fell 16.89 (0.85 per cent) to 1,972.74, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index sank 57.32 (1.24 per cent) to 4,547.83.

US oil prices stabilised, but the benchmark European contract fell below US$60 a barrel.

Meanwhile, the Russian rouble crashed to extreme lows Tuesday, trading at 80 roubles to the dollar and 100 to the euro.

Adding to the mix, investors were eyeing a US Federal Reserve meeting that culminates Wednesday with a policy announcement that could adjust the central bank's outlook for raising interest rates in 2015.

"There are just a lot of pieces in play," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.

A sell-off in tech stocks hit Apple (-1.4 per cent), Facebook (-3.0 per cent) and Google (-3.6 per cent), among others.

Microsoft fell 3.2 per cent on a downgrade from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which cited a "murkier outlook" and the "elevated valuation" of the stock.

Citigroup dropped 3.1 per cent on concerns that it is more exposed to Russia than other large banks.

Some petroleum-linked equities rallied as US oil prices stabilised. Dow component Chevron rose 0.8 per cent, Apache gained 2.7 per cent and oil-services company Schlumberger rose 0.4 per cent.

Dow member Boeing gained 1.8 per cent after announcing it was hiking its quarterly dividend by 25 per cent and that it increased its share repurchase plan to US$12 billion (S$15.6 billion).

The aerospace giant had US$4.8 billion remaining in authorised share repurchases prior to the move.

Drugstore CVS Health gained 2.7 per cent as it projected 2015 earnings of US$5.05-US$5.19 per share. Analysts estimated US$5.11 per share in earnings next year.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell to 2.07 per cent from 2.12 per cent Monday, while the 30-year dropped to 2.70 per cent from 2.75 per cent. Bond yields and prices move inversely.