NEW YORK - After an early-afternoon slump, U.S. stocks finished mostly lower Monday in a quiet day of trading. Banks fell along with bond yields as stocks declined for a third straight day.
Lower bond yields hurt banks because they force interest rates down on mortgages and other kinds of loans. Utility companies gave up some of their recent gains.
Most sectors didn't move much on the lightest trading day of the year. European markets mostly fell after the British government said it will formally begin the process of leaving the European Union next week.
Sameer Samana, a strategist for the Wells Fargo Investment Institute, said politics may keep investors occupied for the next few weeks as they wait for elections in France and a European Central Bank meeting, both next month, while legislators in the U.S. debate the proposed Republican-backed health-care law.
"There's enough events that will keep markets busy," Samana said. He added that investors want to see tax reform proposals because they could boost corporate profits, but those aren't likely to come until the health-care bill is dealt with.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 4.78 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,373.47. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 8.76 points to 20,905.86. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.53 points to 5,901.53. The Russell 2000 of small-company stocks fell 7.43 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,384.10.
Bond prices rose, sending yields to their lowest in three weeks. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.46 percent from 2.50 percent.
Wells Fargo fell $1.04, or 1.8 percent, to $57.63 and Synchrony Financial gave up 92 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $34.20.
The British pound slipped to $1.2350 from $1.2396 late Friday, and is down about 20 percent since Britain voted to leave the EU in late June. The dollar declined to 112.58 yen from 112.70 yen. The euro fell to $1.0733 from $1.0743.
Benchmark U.S. crude declined 56 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $48.22 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 14 cents to $51.62 a barrel in London.
Dominion Diamond climbed $2.28, or 23 percent, to $12.20 after Washington Cos. went public with an offer to buy the diamond mining company for $13.50 per share, or about $1.1 billion. Nektar Therapeutics soared after the company said an experimental pain drug met its goals in a late-stage study. Its NKTR-181 is an opioid drug designed to relieve pain without causing euphoria, which the company said can contribute to drug abuse and addiction. It studied NKTR-181 as a treatment for lower-back pain. Nektar stock rose $6.71, or 43.3 percent, to $22.21.
Array BioPharma fell 29 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $10.27 after it withdrew a marketing application for its melanoma drug binimetinib.
In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to $1.61 a gallon. Heating oil edged up 1 cent to $1.51 a gallon. Natural gas jumped 9 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $3.04 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Gold rose $3.80 to $1,234 an ounce. Silver picked up 3 cents to $17.44 an ounce. Copper lost 2 cents to $2.67 a pound.