NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks edged lower in early afternoon trading Wednesday, a day after a record high close. Investors favored safer stocks over riskier ones. U.S. government bonds also rallied.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell eight points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,888 as of 3:20 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 96 points, or 0.6 percent, to 16,618. The Nasdaq composite fell 26 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,103.
TOUCHING A MILESTONE: The S&P 500 crossed 1,900 for the first time during trading Tuesday, but closed slightly below that level. The S&P 500 has been rising over the last month as investors become optimistic that the economy will start to accelerate this year following a harsh winter that stymied growth.
RAISING THE BAR: Almost all of the companies in the S&P 500 have finished reporting their first-quarter earnings. Earnings rose 3.3 percent for the period, and almost 70 percent of companies reported results that exceeded analysts' expectations. Many Wall Street analysts had low expectations due to the harsh winter, said Jim Russell, a regional investment director at US Bank. Expectations for growth will be higher for the rest of the year.
"There will be no excuses for the second, third and fourth quarter," said Russell. "Companies have to deliver for the market to maintain these record levels."
RISK OFF: The Russell 2000 index, a gauge of small company stocks, fell 1.4 percent. The index declined for a second day as investors were wary of owning the riskier parts of the stock market. Instead, investors bought the stocks of big, stable companies with rich dividends. Telecom and utilities stocks were the biggest gainers in the S&P 500.
DEERE ME: Deere fell $2.12, or 2.3 percent, to $91.47 after the company reported a decline in second-quarter net income because of weaker demand for farming equipment. The company also cut its full-year sales forecast.
FOSSIL BURIED: Fossil Group fell $10, or 9 percent, to $101.42 after the watch, jewelry and accessories maker said late Tuesday that its first-quarter net income fell 8 percent, despite sales gains across all its business segments. The results beat market expectations, but the company gave a weak forecast.
TREASURYS AND COMMODITIES: Government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note is at its lowest in more than six months. It fell to 2.54 percent from 2.61 percent late Tuesday.
Bonds have surged this year because inflation remains low and investors are concerned that the economy may not grow as quickly as anticipated. Barclays' index of Treasury bonds maturing in 20 years or more has gained 10.6 percent this year, outperforming the 2.5 percent rise for the S&P 500 stock index.
COMMODITIES: The price of oil rose 67 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $102.37 a barrel. Gold rose $11.10, or 1.2 percent, to $1,305.90 an ounce.