Last Updated Jul 21, 2015 1:15 PM EDT
Weak results from IBM, United Technologies and other companies pulled stocks lower in midday trading Tuesday. Telecommunications stocks were among the biggest decliners. Apple and Microsoft were among the other big-name companies reporting earnings later in the day.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 218 points, or 1.2 percent, to 17,883 as of 1:13 p.m. ET. The Standard & Poor's 500 index shed 12 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,116. The Nasdaq composite slid 19 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,200. Tuesday's declines follow three straight gains for the S&P and Nasdaq.
"Today's weakness is somewhat expected," said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. "Investors appear to be in a listen-only mode as we await greater clarity on second-quarter results."
About 60 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 report over the next two weeks. Investors are combing the results to get a read on how the economy is doing. But it's still early days. Roughly 12 percent of the S&P 500 companies have reported so far. Some 70 percent of them have beaten Wall Street's already low expectations.
IBM slumped 6.1 percent following a mixed earnings report late Tuesday. The business software company delivered better-than-expected earnings, but its revenue fell short of financial analysts' forecasts. The stock slumped $10.53 to $162.69.
Nine of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index declined, with telecommunications stocks falling the most. The sector was down 2.7 percent. Energy stocks rose slightly.
United Technologies slid 7.6 percent after the aerospace giant's latest earnings didn't meet forecasts. The company also cut its outlook for 2015, citing weaker sales of Otis elevators in Europe and China's slowing economy. The stock lost $8.45 to $102.03.
Chesapeake Energy slid 5.6 percent on news that the energy company has axed its annual dividend and will redirect the money into its 2016 capital spending program. The move comes as natural gas and crude are in an extended decline with few signs of a rebound. The stock lost 58 cents to $9.69.
Harley-Davidson surged after the motorcycle maker's second-quarter earnings beat Wall Street expectations. The stock added $2.12, or 3.9 percent, to $57.06.
In Europe, Germany's DAX was down 1.1 percent, while the CAC-40 in France fell 0.7 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares slipped 0.3 percent. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.9 percent and South Korea's Kospi gained 0.5 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.6 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China rose 0.6 percent.
Benchmark U.S. crude rose 25 cents to $50.69 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, climbed 12 cents to $56.77 a barrel in London.
U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.35 percent from 2.38 percent late Monday.