Wall St. ends slightly lower on energy, earnings

(Reuters) - Energy shares dragged Wall Street slightly lower on Monday, tracking a decline in oil prices, while earnings and guidance from companies including Perrigo and Xerox also weighed on U.S. stocks.

With the S&P 500 up in eight of the past 10 weeks and nearing the record high set almost a year ago, traders are struggling to find reasons to push it even higher as underwhelming earnings and the specter of higher interest rates hover over markets.

Perrigo Co PRGO.N, down 18 percent after it lowered its adjusted profit forecast for the full year, was among the largest drags on the S&P 500. Its Chief Executive and Chairman Joseph Papa resigned to take the reins at Valeant Pharma VRX.N, whose U.S.-traded shares have tumbled nearly 85 percent from last August.

“This is hardly a big selloff but we are having trouble breaking through (to new highs on the S&P) because of a lack of consistently good earnings and economic data,” said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.

“One of the few positives is a weaker dollar but it is hard to see a reason for that to continue; rates are being lowered around the world and expected to rise here (in the United States), there’s no clear path to a lower dollar.”

The Federal Reserve is expected to hold interest rates steady after a two-day meeting set to begin on Tuesday, but policymakers may be more upbeat on the economic outlook, leaving the path open for future rate hikes.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 26.51 points, or 0.15 percent, to 17,977.24, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 3.79 points, or 0.18 percent, to 2,087.79 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 10.44 points, or 0.21 percent, to 4,895.79.

The energy sector .SPNY was the largest drag on the S&P 500 with a 1.1 percent decline.

First-quarter earnings from S&P 500 components are expected to have fallen 7.3 percent from the previous year, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data. Of the 135 companies that have reported, 59 percent reported revenue above analyst expectations, just short of the average of 60 percent going back to 2002.

Xerox XRX.N shares tumbled 13.3 percent, their sharpest one-day drop since September 2009, to $9.68 after the printer and copier maker reported lower revenue.

The U.S. Justice Department approved Charter Communications' CHTR.O proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable TWC.N, whose shares jumped 4.1 percent to $209.63. Charter rose 4.6 percent to $207.01.

Tribune Publishing TPUB.N soared 53 percent to $11.50 after Gannett GCI.N offered to buy the owner of the Los Angeles Times. Gannett was up 6.5 percent at $16.79.

The PHLX housing index .HGX fell 0.7 percent after data showed new U.S. single-family home sales unexpectedly fell in March. The decline was concentrated in the western U.S. region, however, suggesting that the housing market continued to steadily improve.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.04-to-1 ratio and on the Nasdaq a 1.71-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 8 new 52-week highs and 1 new low; the Nasdaq recorded 35 new highs and 21 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was just shy of 6 billion shares traded, below the 6.9 billion daily average over the past 20 days.

Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Bernard Orr and Meredith Mazzilli