NEW YORK - A record-breaking rally in stocks paused Monday as investors assessed whether stock valuations were overstating the recent improvement in the economy.
The latest positive data, out Monday, showed Americans increased spending at retailers last month. That suggests consumers may boost economic growth in the current quarter ending June 30. Still, that was not enough to lift shares.
Stocks have surged this year, boosted by an improving economy, Federal Reserve stimulus, and record corporate earnings. Signs that the housing market is reviving are also supporting stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard and Poor's 500 index closed at record highs Friday.
Oil fell 87 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $95.17 a barrel. Gold dropped $2.30, or 0.2 percent, to $1,434.30 an ounce. The U.S. dollar was little changed against the Japanese yen at 101.83 and gained against the euro.
Retail sales increased 0.1 percent in April from March, the Commerce Department said Monday. That's an improvement from the 0.5 percent decline in March, which was the largest drop in nine months. Economists had forecast that sales declined by 0.3 percent.
On Monday, stocks started lower before paring some of those losses throughout the day.
The Dow fell 26.81 points, or about 0.2 percent, to 15,091.68. The S&P 500 index was little changed at 1,633.77. The Nasdaq composite rose 2.21 points, about 0.1 percent, to 3,438.79.
Telecommunications companies dropped the most of any industry group in the S&P 500 index, falling 0.83 percent. Health-care companies advanced the most, rising 0.7 percent.
Health-care companies have risen 21.4 percent this year, the most of any of the 10 industry groups in the S&P 500. Investors have been buying the stocks because they offer some growth prospects and also pay large dividends.
More than 90 percent of companies in the S&P 500 have reported earnings for the first quarter, and corporate earnings are projected to grow by an average of 5 percent for the period, according to data from S&P Capital IQ. While earnings growth has slowed from the previous quarter, it is forecast to end the year at 11.6 percent.
Among big movers, Theravance, a biopharmaceutical company, surged $6.26, or 18 percent, to $41.20. The Irish drugmaker Elan Corp. plans to pay $1 billion for the right to future royalties from respiratory treatments being developed by Theravance and GlaxoSmithKline.