Last year, the Dow's longest losing streak was an eight-day, 858-point plunge in July and August, with Congress bickering over the government debt limit and just before the S&P ratings agency downgraded the U.S.
On Tuesday, the dollar and U.S. Treasury prices rose as investors shifted money into lower-risk investments. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell for the fifth straight day, dropping to 1.99 percent from 2.04 percent Monday.
When earnings reports begin rolling in, analysts think they will reflect slowing growth in China and a tottering Europe. But "a lot of these companies are in a good spot," said JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist for TD Ameritrade in Chicago.
"There seems to be this black cloud as everyone talks about the market," Kinahan said.
He noted that stocks are still well ahead for the year. The S&P 500 was up 8 percent even counting Tuesday's decline. The Dow was up more than 4 percent and the Nasdaq 15 percent.
The low expectations for earnings could also be a blessing in disguise. Companies may have an easier time beating them, which can drive up their stock price, at least temporarily.
"CEOs have done a very good job of setting expectations low," Kinahan said.
Analysts have also worried that high gasoline prices could hurt the economic recovery. The price of oil fell almost to $101 a barrel Tuesday, but that was because traders are betting that a weak U.S. economy will keep demand low.
Oil was about $75 in October. The buildup has been partly because of tension over Iran's nuclear program and the oil embargos that have ensued. It nearly hit $110 last month.
Iran, which has already cut off oil shipments to France and Britain, declared Tuesday that it would extend the embargo to Greece, a pre-emptive strike against European countries that planned to stop buying from Iran. Talks on Iran's nuclear program are scheduled for Saturday.
Among stocks making big moves:
— Supervalu Inc., the grocery chain that owns Albertsons and Jewel-Osco, climbed 15 percent. The company reported a quarterly loss but outlined turnaround plans that include closing stores and slashing jobs.
— Best Buy fell almost 6 percent after announcing that its chief executive had resigned without a permanent successor. The electronics giant is struggling for market share in a retail world that's been shaken up by online companies like Amazon.
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