NEW YORK – The stock market continued its recent pattern of one step forward, one step back.
After starting the day higher following an encouraging report on orders for manufactured goods, stocks drifted lower in afternoon trading Wednesday and gave up their gains from a day earlier. Facebook led the technology sector lower as investors gave the company’s latest acquisition the thumbs-down.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell the most in two weeks and is now flat for the year. Investors are waiting for a catalyst that will either push the market higher or cause a sustained sell-off. Many anticipate that the stock market will resume its upward trajectory later in the year as the economy strengthens following an unusually harsh winter.
“We’re going through this back and forth, I would call it a consolidation phase, digesting the huge gains we’ve had,” said David Lafferty, chief market strategist at Natixis Global Asset Management. “Most of the movement in stocks will tend to be in the latter half of the year.”
The S&P 500 fell 13.06 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,852.56. The index is up 0.2 percent for the year, after rising almost 30 percent in 2013.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 98.89 points, or 0.6 percent, to 16,268.99. The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite fell more than the other indexes, giving up 60.69 points, or 1.4 percent, to 4,173.58.
Facebook was one of the biggest losers. The social media network slumped $4.51, or 6.9 percent, to $60.38 after announcing a $2 billion acquisition of virtual reality company Oculus late Monday. It was Facebook’s second big acquisition in as many months. Last month the company announced that it would pay $19 billion for messaging start-up WhatsApp.