NEW YORK - U.S. stocks dropped Tuesday as investors weighed company news and the latest report on consumer prices.

Signs that the dollar could resume its surge also made investors nervous.

Homebuilders bucked the trend, gaining after sales of new U.S. homes in February climbed to their fastest pace in seven years.

Stocks have drifted lower for two straight days. The declines follow a rally in the market last week, when Federal Reserve policymakers surprised investors by suggesting they were in no hurry to raise interest rates. Those low rates have helped power a six-year bull run for stocks.

"We're in something of a holding pattern as markets continue to digest all that's going on," said Kristina Hooper, U.S. investment strategist at Allianz Global Investors.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 12.92 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,091.50 Tuesday. The Dow slipped 104.90 points, or 0.6 percent, to 18,011.14. The Nasdaq composite fell 16.25 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,994.73.

Homebuilders were among the gainers Tuesday, after the Commerce Department said new-home sales shot up 7.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 539,000, the strongest performance since February 2008.

PulteGroup rose 40 cents, or 2 percent, to $21.94. Beazer Homes climbed 36 cents, also 2 percent, to $17.57.

In energy trading, the price of U.S. crude rose slightly as traders anticipated the release of weekly supply information. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 6 cents to close at $47.51 a barrel in New York.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 81 cents to close at $55.11 in London. The price slipped on weak Chinese manufacturing data that suggested lower global demand.

Prices rose in government bond trading, pushing down the yield on the 10-year Treasury note to 1.87 percent from 1.91 percent late Monday.

The dollar gained against the euro and the Japanese yen. Against the euro, the U.S. currency traded at $1.0924, and against the yen it climbed to 119.72.

In metal trading, gold rose $3.70, or 0.3 percent, to $1,191.40 an ounce. Silver gained 9.2 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $16.98 an ounce. Copper climbed 1.4 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $2.83 per pound.

In other futures trading on the NYMEX, wholesale gasoline fell 0.4 cent to close at $1.800 a gallon. Heating oil fell 2.4 cents to close at $1.707 a gallon. Natural gas rose 5.3 cents to close at $2.786 per 1,000 cubic feet.