US shares backtrack after recent gains

NYSE traders Image copyright Reuters

(Open): US stocks fell in early trading following three weeks of gains.

After adding around 8% since 12 February, the Dow Industrials was down 0.2% at 16,968, after about an hour of trading.

The broader S&P 500 was down 0.4% at 1,991 and the Nasdaq index fell 0.6%.

Energy firms were the big winners among S&P 500 shares, with Peabody Energy jumping more than 10% and Chesapeake Energy adding 7%. Those energy shares were helped by rising oil prices.

The US benchmark oil price, West Texas Intermediate, rose $0.84 per barrel to $36.76.

On Friday the Dow closed above 17,000 for the first time since January, but analysts think that the rally has run out of steam.

"The factors that have been driving the market have been some bargain hunting, some short covering and speculating off the belief that we have seen the worst of things," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital.

"Investors are taking a pause, stepping back and looking at what's the next driving element," he said.