NEW YORK >> Stocks fell across industries on Tuesday, erasing gains from a rally a day earlier, as investors sifted through economic reports for clues as to when the era of low interest rates may end.
Consumer goods companies and utilities fell the most. Kraft Heinz fell 4 percent and Consolidated Edison dropped 2 percent. Nine of the 10 sectors of the Standard and Poor's 500 index ended lower. Energy stocks rose as the price of crude oil rose to a seven-month high.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 180.73 points, or 1 percent, to 17,529.98. The S&P 500 index gave up 19.45 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,047.21. The Nasdaq composite pulled back 59.73 points, or 1.3 percent, to 4,715.73.
Diane Jaffee, a senior portfolio manager at TCW Group, said investors are worried that a pickup in inflation suggests the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates soon, threatening the still-sluggish economy. The Fed next meets on rates in June.
Economic 'tipping point'
"The specter of rising rates in June may be making investors queasy," said Jaffee. The economy is at a "tipping point."
The Labor Department reported Tuesday that the cost of living in April climbed by the most in more than three years. A separate report said builders are breaking ground on new homes at a faster past than last year.
Investors worry that reports like those could prompt the Fed to raise rates. That could hurt high-dividend stocks like utilities.
Adding to the jitters, Politico quoted Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart saying that "action could be taken" at the Fed's June policy meeting.
Investors will get a better idea of the Fed's thinking on Wednesday when the central bank releases minutes from its last meeting in April.
Among stocks making big moves, LendingClub plunged 34 cents, or nine percent, to $3.60 after the Department of Justice opened an investigation. The company forced out its founder last week after an internal review found irregularities with the way loans were sold.
The stock traded as high as $25 a share in late 2014, shortly after the company went public.
Pandora Media rose 61 cents, or six percent, to $10.59 after hedge fund Corvex Management raised its stake and began advocating for a sale of the streaming music company. Corvex said that putting the company on the block is the best answer to rising competition from Spotify and Apple.
Another report showed U.S. industrial production posted the biggest increase in April since November 2014 after dropping the previous two months. Industrial output, which includes output at factories, mines and utilities, rose 0.7 percent from March.
Still, production is modest. The report said that factories are operating at 75.3 percent of capacity, well below their long-run average.
"We've got an economy in slow-down mode," said James Abate of Centre Funds.