"There is more bad news than good news on the earnings front," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Jefferies & Co., who pointed to results from Coach Inc. as illustrating that "the retail consumer was resistant."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 104.79 points to 12,720.23, with 23 of its 30 components in negative territory.
The blue-chip declines were fronted by DuPont Co. , off 4% after the chemicals company forecast weakness in the U.S. construction and automotive markets to dent growth.
"It's a repeat of last quarter with corporate guidance being somewhat more cautious. And, today and yesterday we're seeing some profit-taking induced by higher oil prices," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners.
Two other Dow components -- McDonald's Corp. and AT&T Inc. reported results before Tuesday's bell.
McDonald's said first-quarter profit climbed 24%, but same-store sales in March were "slightly negative."
Shares of the fast-food chain declined 0.6%. .
The S&P 500 declined 12.23 points to 1,375.94, with information technology off 2.3%, consumer discretionary down 2.1%, and materials also down 2.1%.
The energy sector also fell, off 0.6%, as crude-oil futures added $1.89 to a record closing price of $119.37 a barrel, after earlier hitting a new high of $119.90. .
The surge in fuel costs had UAL Corp. reporting widening losses for the first quarter, with the Chicago-based parent of United Airlines joining JetBlue Airways Corp. in pointing to escalating energy costs for wiping out profit. .
The technology-laden Nasdaq Composite shed 31.1 points to 2,376.94, with shares of Texas Instruments among those weighing, its stock down 5.8%, retreating after the chipmaker offered a second-quarter outlook lagging expectations late Monday.
Yahoo Inc. lost 0.04% ahead of its earnings report after the close.
Shares of Apple Inc. , which is slated to report on its earnings Wednesday, were down for the first time in seven sessions, off 4.7%.
Volume on the New York Stock Exchange hit 3.8 billion shares, with declining stocks outpacing those on the rise by a more than 2-to-1 count. On the Nasdaq, 1.9 billion shares exchanged hands, with decliners also running ahead of advancing stocks, 3 to 1.
The National Association of Realtors reported the U.S. housing market weakened slightly in March, with the trade group's chief economist calling existing-home sales "stable yet soft." .
Wall Street ended narrowly mixed on Monday, with the Dow industrials losing 24 points and the S&P 500 down 2 points as oil prices hit new record highs and Bank of America reported a 77% profit decline. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 5 points.
By Kate Gibson