TORONTO -- Canada's main stock index fell slightly for a second straight day as a drop in crude oil prices pulled down the key energy sector.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed 13.71 points lower to 17,011.40 after hitting an intraday low of 16,963.91.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 102.20 points at 27,934.02. The S&P 500 index was down 1.85 points at 3,120.18, while the Nasdaq composite was up 20.72 points at 8,570.66 after hitting an intraday record high.

Equity markets traded Tuesday in a "fairly directionless manner," said Candice Bangsund, portfolio manager for Fiera Capital.

"Investors are contemplating on the one hand the potential for a trade deal between the U.S. and China which is obviously boosting appetite for risk but on the other hand we had some disappointing earnings results in the U.S. retail space which has brought into question the strength of the U.S. consumer and that's what's likely weighing on sentiment today," she said in an interview.

The world's two largest economies are reportedly making progress on a partial deal but differences have prevented the signing of an agreement.

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened Tuesday to take more action on Chinese imports if a deal isn't forthcoming.

"If we don't make a deal with China, I'll just raise the tariffs even higher," he told reporters at a cabinet meeting.

Investors have been fairly muted to negative trade headlines, added Bangsund.

"There is a lot of positive momentum behind the equity market rally," she said. "The markets have been resilient even in the wake of the headlines on the trade or the geopolitical front."

In addition to trade issues, U.S. consumer sectors were hurt by disappointing same-store sales from Home Depot, whose shares fell 5.4 per cent, pulling down the Dow. Shares of the Kohl's department store lost 19.5 per cent on weak same-store sales.

"The disappointing earnings results in the U.S. retail sector brought into question the healthiest part of the U.S. economy and what's been carrying the U.S. economy during this factory led slump, which is the consumer," said Bangsund.

The energy sector dropped the most of 11 major sectors, falling 1.2 per cent on lower crude oil prices ahead of weekly U.S. inventory data that is expected to indicate larger crude stockpiles, said Bangsund.

The January crude contract was down US$1.79 at US$55.35 per barrel and the December natural gas contract was down 5.6 cents at US$2.51 per mmBTU.

Shares of Encana Corp. fell 4.4 per cent after Canadian investment management firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. said it will vote against Encana's plan to move its headquarters to the United States.

Industrials was also lower on a strike by about 3,200 Canadian National Railway workers that customers warned would dent their revenues and could trigger layoffs and closures.

Health care rallied 2.7 per cent on a rebound of cannabis producers including Hexo Corp. Its shares rose 16.1 per cent, following by a 12.3 per cent gain by the Green Organic Dutchman Holdings Ltd. and 9.1 per cent increase by Cronos Group. Inc.

Materials was also higher as investors seeking safety helped gold prices.

The December gold contract was up US$2.40 at US$1,474.30 an ounce and the December copper contract was up 3.65 cents at US$2.66 a pound.

The Canadian dollar traded for 75.55 cents US compared with an average of 75.68 cents US on Monday.