US stocks move mostly lower as traders assess earnings; Allstate slumps on weak results

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NEW YORK — U.S. stocks moved between small gains and losses on Tuesday as investors assessed company earnings reports and deal news.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped four points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,094 as of 3:25 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 43 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,554. The Nasdaq composite fell five points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,109.

ALLSTATE SLUMP: Allstate was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500. The insurer dropped $7.09, or 10.2 percent, to $62.29 after reporting earnings that fell significantly short of analysts' expectations. The company said its earnings dropped because of more frequent and more severe auto accidents.

LOSING MOMENTUM: Apple slumped $3.13, or 2.6 percent, to $115.33, dropping for a fifth straight day after falling below a closely followed level that traders use to gauge the momentum of a stock. The iPhone maker has dropped 12 percent since closing at a record $133 in February. That puts Apple in a correction, Wall Street parlance for price declines of 10 percent or more from a peak.

THE QUOTE: Stocks have traded in a relatively tight range since the S&P 500 closed at a record May 21. Even though the overall market may appear to be in the summer doldrums, it's masking a series of sharp gains and losses, says Kate Warne, an investment strategist at brokerage Edward Jones.

"Stocks haven't moved any place, but it's because there's been an equal mix of gainers and losers," says Jones. "What we're seeing is a back-and-forth market, not a doldrums market."

PHARMA DEAL: Pharmaceutical company Baxalta jumped $4.75, or 14 percent, to $37.95 after larger rival Shire offered $30 billion in stock to acquire the company, which focuses on bleeding disorders.

U.S. EMPLOYMENT: Investors are looking ahead to monthly U.S. job figures due out Friday. A robust report is likely to cement expectations for a U.S. interest rate hike in September or December. A FactSet survey of analysts predicts that U.S. employers added 225,000 jobs in July, slightly better than June's 223,000. Ultra-low interest rates have driven gains in stock prices for several years and a rate hike is likely to ruffle markets.

EUROPE'S DAY: France's CAC 40 dropped 0.3 percent, while Germany's DAX and Britain's FTSE 100 were little changed. Greece's stock market fell for a second day since reopening after a five-week shutdown, though its losses were modest at 2 percent. The market plunged 16 percent on Monday.

ENERGY: The price of oil rose, partially reversing Monday's steep drop. U.S. crude rose 57 cents to close at $45.74 a barrel in New York, regaining some of the ground it lost Monday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose 47 cents to close at $49.99 a barrel in London.

In other futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

— Wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to close at $1.685 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 1.7 cents to close at $1.548 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 6.4 cents to close at $2.812 per 1,000 cubic feet.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: U.S. government bond prices fell after the Wall Street Journal reported that Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Dennis Lockhart said in interview that the economy was ready for its first rate increase in more than nine years.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed to 2.22 percent from 2.15 percent the day before. The comments also gave a boost to the dollar. The dollar rose to 124.33 yen and the euro fell to $1.0889.

METALS: Gold edged up $1.30 to $1,090.70 an ounce, silver rose four cents to $14.56 an ounce and copper increased two cents to $2.36 a pound.

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