By Rodrigo Campos
(Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell on Tuesday as oil prices dropped to their lowest since November and airlines pulled industrial stocks down as a blizzard hit the U.S. Northeast.
Hospital operator shares were hit after a nonpartisan research report showed 14 million Americans would lose medical insurance by next year under a Republican proposal.
Trading volume was light ahead of a Federal Reserve statement due on Wednesday in which the U.S. central bank is expected to raise interest rates by 25 basis points.
Airline stocks dropped as a blizzard swept through the heavily populated northeastern United States, grounding thousands of flights. United Continental (UAL.N) fell 4.7 percent to $66.55 while Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) dropped 3.0 percent and American Airlines (AAL.O) lost 2.7 percent.
Oil prices slid to the lowest since late November after OPEC reported a rise in global crude inventories and raised its forecast of production in 2017 from outside the group, suggesting complications in an effort to clear a glut and support prices.
The S&P energy sector (.SPNY) fell 1.1 percent to close at its lowest since Nov. 4. Chevron (CVX.N) was off 1.8 percent and was the biggest drag on the Dow and the S&P 500.
“None of the data you’re getting is good if you’re trying to increase (crude) prices; it doesn’t look like oil supply is diminishing,” said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.
She said energy sector earnings have little upside potential so their stocks’ underperformance is to be expected.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) fell 44.11 points, or 0.21 percent, to 20,837.37, the S&P 500 (.SPX) lost 8.02 points, or 0.34 percent, to 2,365.45 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) dropped 18.97 points, or 0.32 percent, to 5,856.82.
About 6.23 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, compared with the 6.93 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.
Shares of hospital operators fell after the U.S. Congressional Budget Office forecast that 14 million Americans would lose medical insurance by next year under a Republican plan to dismantle Obamacare.
Among hospital stocks, HCA Holdings (HCA.N) slipped 1.5 percent, Tenet Healthcare (THC.N) fell 3.3 percent, Community Health Systems (CYH.N) shed 2.2 percent and LifePoint Health (LPNT.O) was down 1.5 percent.
Valeant (VRX.N) plunged 10.1 percent to $10.89 after billionaire investor William Ackman said his hedge fund, Pershing Square Capital, sold its entire stake in the company.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.99-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.09-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 14 new 52-week highs and 4 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 55 new highs and 60 new lows.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Dan Grebler)