U.S. stocks ended down but well off the day’s lows on Tuesday, with worries over geopolitical risks dragging down sentiment as investors readied for the start of U.S. earnings.

The worries drove investors into gold and other safe-haven assets and pushed up the CBOE Volatility index <.vix>, Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” which closed above 15 for the first time since Election Day.

“Geopolitical risk is the focal point right now,” said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.

But, she said, “this is also a market trading at 18, 19 times forward earnings, and that’s the higher range. The earnings season is unfolding, and that’s going to be important.”

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