Major indexes swung up and down after starting the session 2% lower, underscoring a return of volatility to a market that until recently had been known for the absence of such major shifts.
The sharp declines in recent days marked a pullback long-awaited by investors after the market minted record high after record high in a relatively calm ascent.
“Put your seatbelts on. It’s going to be a volatile ride for the next several trading sessions," said Chad Morganlander, portfolio manager at Washington Crossing Advisors in Florham Park, New Jersey.
“Fundamentals are moving forward in a positive way, which gives us confidence that in the long run you’ll continue to see higher highs within the markets."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 34.37 points, or 0.14%, to 24,311.38, the S&P 500 lost 7.95 points, or 0.30%, to 2,640.99 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 17.12 points, or 0.25%, to 6,950.41.
The market’s pullback comes amid concerns about rising bond yields and higher inflation. These were reinforced by Friday’s January US jobs report that prompted worries the Federal Reserve will raise rates at a faster pace than expected this year.
“You continue to have investors re-rating stocks based on higher inflation and higher interest rate expectations," said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.
Tuesday brought another day of volatility a day after a steep sell-off that brought the biggest percentage daily declines for the S&P 500 and the Dow since August 2011 and a near 1,600 point intraday loss for the Dow.
At its session low on Tuesday, the S&P had declined 9.7% from its 26 January record high. At its lowest point on Tuesday, the Dow was off 10.7% from its 26 January record.
Market experts said the sell-off, including the overnight slide in S&P 500 futures, may have been magnified by the violent unwind of a trade betting on volatility in US stocks staying low as the CBOE Volatility index, known as the VIX, notched its biggest one-day jump on Monday in over two years. “If this is just the implosion of shorting volatility, it’s not the end of the bull market," said Michael Antonelli, managing director of institutional sales trading at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee.
“People will be afraid now of shorting volatility. It’ll change the complexion of the market. It takes away what many considered to be easy money."
The Trump administration is “concerned" about Monday’s plunge in US stock markets but believes that indicators including unemployment and consumer confidence show a strong economy, a White House official said.
“Obviously we’re concerned about setbacks that happened in the stock market, but that being said, we’re looking at the long-term strong economic fundamentals," Mercedes Schlapp, President Donald Trump’s director of strategic communications, said in an interview Tuesday on Fox News.
Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday that markets are “functioning very well." The administration’s policies “are very positive for long-term economic growth," he said at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.
Trump has repeatedly claimed credit for the stock market’s rise over his first year in office, and now he risks taking the blame if there’s a prolonged downturn. Monday’s sell-off — the biggest tumble in more than six years — intensified just as the president was recounting “a tidal wave of good news" about the economy in a speech in Ohio. He didn’t mention markets, even though he often boasts about them with the refrain, “how’s your 401k doing?"
“We’re focused on the fact that there’s been the lowest unemployment that we’ve seen in a long time, and there’s confidence in our businesses," Schlapp said.
Bloomberg contributed to this story.