Mixed corporate earnings reports weighed on stocks Monday.
Kimberly-Clark Corp., the maker of Kleenex and Huggies, dropped 2.7 percent after missing earnings estimates. The company also lowered its earnings forecast for the full year and said it plans to raise prices to offset higher costs.
Traders said rising commodity costs were making investors cautious.
"It's becoming harder to become overly exuberant over backwards-looking earnings when it's clear that consumers' pocketbooks are getting squeezed over higher gasoline costs," said Paul Zemsky, a market strategist at ING Investment Management. "Given that we're near the ... highs for the year, we're certainly not adding to our (stock) positions until we get a sense of what these oil prices mean to the consumer."
Johnson Controls Inc. fell 2.8 percent. The auto parts supplier said it expects revenue to drop by $500 million in the third quarter because of the earthquake in Japan.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 26.11 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 12,479.88. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 2.13, or 0.2 percent, to 1,335.25. The Nasdaq composite edged up 5.72 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,825.88.
Worries about rising prices and a weak dollar helped push up precious metals. Silver futures rose $1.09 to settle at $47.15 an ounce. The price has risen 52 percent since the first of the year. Gold rose $5.30 to settle at $1,509.10 an ounce.
Monday was light on economic data. The Commerce Department reported that sales of new homes rose more than expected in March to 300,000. That's still less than half of the 700,000-a-year pace that economists consider healthy.
More than three shares rose for every four that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading volume was 2.9 billion shares.
Ford Motor Co., Coca-Cola, and 3M Co. are among the companies reporting earnings Tuesday.