Wall Street stocks closed modestly lower Tuesday as worries about sliding crude oil prices overshadowed Alcoa's strong unofficial start to quarterly earnings season.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 27.16 points, or 0.15 percent, to 17,613.68.
The broad-based S&P 500 fell 5.23 (0.26 percent) to 2,023.03, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index edged down 3.21 (0.07 percent) to 4,661.50.
Stocks had surged higher in early trade, but fell into negative territory in the afternoon as traders watched crude oil close at the lowest levels in nearly six years, continuing the steep slide since June when prices were above $100 a barrel.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for February fell 18 cents to settle at $45.89 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its lowest close since March 11, 2009.
In London, Brent crude for February delivery, the international benchmark futures contract, finished at $46.59 a barrel, down 84 cents.
"Hopes of snapping the market's recent losing streak were dashed in afternoon action, as the solid early gains that came following some upbeat economic data, as well as yesterday's stronger-than-expected results from Alcoa, again fell victim to the unrelenting effects of the continued drop in crude oil prices," said Charles Schwab analysts in a market note.
Alcoa, which reported results after markets closed Monday, tumbled 2.3 percent, despite earnings that translated into 33 cents per share, well above the 25 cents projected by analysts.
MetLife fell 1.2 percent after the insurer announced it would challenge in court a US regulatory designation as a "systemically important financial institution," a classification that subjects it to tougher scrutiny.
Homebuilder KB Home plunged 16.3 percent. The company reported that fourth-quarter revenues jumped 15 percent to $2.4 billion but warned that its margins would be squeezed in 2015.
Tech heavyweight Apple rose 0.9 percent following an upgrade by Credit Suisse, while electronics retailer Best Buy ended flat despite an upgrade from Goldman Sachs.
Bond prices were largely unchanged. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury dipped to 1.90 percent from 1.91 percent Monday, while the 30-year stabilized at 2.50 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.