Last Updated Mar 23, 2016 5:29 PM EDT
Falling prices for oil and other commodities pulled U.S. stocks modestly lower on Wednesday, nudging the Standard & Poor's 500 index slightly into the red for the year and putting it on course to snap a five-week winning streak.
Energy and mining companies led the decline, while consumer staples and utilities stocks bucked the broader downward trend.
Disappointing earnings from several companies, including Nike, also weighed on the market. Oil slumped 4 percent.
Trading was muted ahead of Friday, when markets will be closed for the Good Friday holiday.
"It's one of the lowest volume days of the year," said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank.
"We're seeing a little bit of a sell-off, but not much." Investors can expect similarly low trading volume on Thursday.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 79.98 points, or 0.5 percent, to 17,502.59. The S&P 500 index lost 13.09 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,036.71. The Nasdaq composite dropped 52.80 points, or 1.1 percent, to 4,768.86.
The Dow is now up 0.5 percent for the year, while the S&P 500 is down 0.4 percent and the Nasdaq is off 4.8 percent.
Major U.S. indexes moved lower early on as falling prices for oil, natural gas, precious metals and other commodities put traders in a selling mood.
Chesapeake Energy lost 69 cents, or 14.3 percent, to $4.13, while Marathon Oil fell $1.12, or 9.9 percent, to $10.19. Southwestern Energy slid 73 cents, or 9 percent, to $7.35.
Mining companies also slumped, including Newmont Mining, which fell $2.41, or 8.8 percent, to $24.98, while Freeport-McMoRan lost $1.24, or 11.28 percent, to $9.75.
A batch of company earnings also gave investors reasons to sell.
Nike, one of the 30 stocks in the Dow, fell 3.8 percent after reporting revenue that fell far short of what analysts were expecting. The athletic apparel maker also gave a weaker-than-anticipated outlook for 2016. The stock dropped $2.46 to $62.44.
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts slid 7.1 percent after the chain reported disappointing fourth-quarter revenue and a weaker-than-expected annual profit forecast. The stock shed $1.09 to $14.29.
Software maker Red Hat also declined, losing 4.2 percent after it reported disappointing forecasts. The stock fell $3.38 to $72.33.
Most homebuilders slumped after the Commerce Department reported that new-home sales rose only 2 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 512,000. Sales in the opening two months of 2016 are running slightly below last year's pace. Beazer Homes USA fell the most, sliding 63 cents, or 7.2 percent, to $8.07.
All told, eight of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index lost ground, with energy stocks sliding the most, 2.1 percent. The sector is down about 18 percent over the past 12 months. Utilities and consumer staples stocks moved higher.
Not all companies got caught up in the broad decline.
Pepco Holdings vaulted $5.69, or 26.8 percent, to $26.93 after a Washington D.C. regulator approved Pepco's $7 billion sale to rival utility Exelon. The deal will only go through if Exelon agrees to the regulator's terms, however. Exelon slipped 28 cents, or less than 1 percent, to $34.72.
European stocks were mixed following Tuesday's deadly bombings in Belgium.
Germany's DAX rose 0.3 percent, while France's CAC 40 fell 0.2 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 edged up 0.1 percent. Belgium's main index increased 0.1 percent.
In Asia, markets mostly fell moderately. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 percent. South Korea's Kospi edged 0.1 percent lower. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.3 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.5 percent.
In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.66, or 4 percent, to close at $39.79 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, slid $1.32, or 3.2 percent, to close at $40.47 a barrel in London.
Wholesale gasoline fell 4 cents, or 2.9 percent, to close at $1.45 a gallon, while heating oil slipped 5 cents, or 3.8 percent, to close at $1.20 a gallon. Natural gas declined 7 cents, or 3.7 percent, to close at $1.79 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Among metals, gold fell $24.60, or 2 percent, to $1,224.40 an ounce. Silver slid 61 cents, or 3.9 percent, to $15.27 an ounce. Copper lost 5 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $2.24 a pound.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.87 percent from 1.94 percent late Tuesday. The euro fell slightly to $1.1183 from $1.1216, while the dollar rose to 112.39 yen from 112.33 yen.