NEW YORK — The stock market flipped between slight gains and losses on Tuesday, keeping the Standard & Poor's 500 index on course for its third monthly drop this year. Ford Motor sank after cutting its profit forecast, while eBay jumped after announcing plans to spin off PayPal. Oil prices plunged, pulling energy companies' stocks down.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 10 points, a fraction of a percent, to 17,060 as of 1:32 p.m. Eastern time. The S&P 500 slipped three points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,975. The Nasdaq composite lost three points to 4,503.
MEANDERING: Trading has turned choppy since the S&P 500 hit a record Sept. 18. Part of the reason is lingering concerns over conflicts around the world, corporate profits and the global economy, said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners. Investors are also wary of the fact that some of the market's worst swoons have happened in the months of September and October. "People are unsure at this time of the year," Pavlik said. "We're heading into October. Like September, it's another typically bad month for the market."
BREAKUP: EBay jumped 8 percent, the biggest gain in the S&P 500, following news that it plans to spin off its PayPal payment service into a publicly traded company next year. Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor, had been pushing eBay to make just such a move. EBay's President and CEO John Donahoe will step down after overseeing the split. Ebay jumped $3.99 to $56.67.
FORD: Ford fell after saying that it expects to fall short of its previously announced targets for profit. Bob Shanks, the car maker's chief financial officer, said record profits in North America aren't enough to offset trouble in South America, where Ford expects to lose $1 billion this year, and Russia, where falling sales and a steep fall in the ruble took the company by surprise. Ford dropped 31 cents, or 2 percent, to $14.80.
OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude plunged $3.38, or 3.6 percent, to $91.19 a barrel, on track for its biggest one-day drop in nearly two years and the lowest price for oil since March of 2013. Oil is lower as wholesale fuel prices dropping on evidence of plentiful supplies, leading to expectations of weaker demand for crude in coming weeks. The dollar's rise against other currencies also makes oil less attractive as an investment.
CRUEL MONTH: The S&P 500 has slumped 1 percent in September, putting it on track to end the month with a loss for only the third time in the past decade. Despite its bad reputation, September had actually been good to investors. Over the past 10 years, the S&P 500 turned in a September loss during the financial crisis in 2008 and following a fight over raising the government's borrowing limit in 2011.
OVER THERE: Major markets in Europe were mixed. France's CAC-40 rose 1.3 percent and Germany's DAX gained 0.5 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 0.4 percent.
HONG KONG PROTESTS: Thousands of people blocked streets in the territory's business district to protest government plans to require candidates in the territory's first election for its leader to be approved by a panel dominated by business leaders who support the mainland Chinese government.
ASIA'S DAY: Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index tumbled 1.3 percent. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 was down as much as 1.5 percent but rebounded to end the day down 0.8 percent. China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.3 percent.
EUROZONE STIMULUS HOPES: A new batch of economic reports furthered speculation that the European Central Bank might provide more support for the region's economy. The annual inflation rate dropped to 0.3 percent, the weakest rate since October 2009. The report added pressure on the ECB to start a more aggressive stimulus program involving large-scale purchases of bonds.
DOLLAR & BONDS: The dollar rose to 109.79 yen while the euro fell to $1.2583 after weak eurozone inflation data. U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.49 percent.
AP Business Writer Joe McDonald contributed from Bangkok.