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Late Stocks Slide Erases Monday Gains  03/31 17:26

   The stock market closed out the first three months of the year Tuesday on a 
down note, erasing much of the gains from the prior day's big rally.

   (AP) -- The stock market closed out the first three months of the year 
Tuesday on a down note, erasing much of the gains from the prior day's big 

   The Dow Jones industrial average slumped 200 points, knocking the blue chip 
index slightly lower for the year. The Standard & Poor's 500 index ended the 
quarter with a meager gain of half a percent.

   The broad decline came as traders seized on the final day of the quarter to 
do some profit-taking and prune their portfolios. Health care stocks were among 
the biggest decliners. Oil prices extended their slide.

   "It's the end of the quarter," said Anwiti Bahuguna, senior portfolio 
manager at Columbia Threadneedle Investments. "Today the markets are probably 
driven by that quite a bit, because people are rebalancing their portfolios."

   The Dow fell 200.19 points, or 1.1 percent, to 17,776.12. The 30-company 
index was down as much as 203 points. It's now down 0.3 percent for the year.

   The S&P 500 index slid 18.35 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,067.89. The index 
is now up 0.4 percent for the year. The Nasdaq composite lost 46.56 points, or 
0.9 percent, to 4,900.88. The tech-heavy index ended the quarter up 3.5 percent.

   Traders often look to close out positions to make their books look as 
healthy as possible at the end of a quarter.

   Other factors also contributed to the stepped-up selling on Tuesday.

   "There's also rising concern about oil prices, especially as the U.S. gets 
closer to a deal with Iran," said Paul Christopher, head of international 
strategy at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute. "There's some speculation 
that Iran will be able to release a lot of oil into the world."

   That could stoke fears of deflation, which can hurt corporate profits, he 

   The price of oil fell Tuesday as talks between the U.S. and Iran progressed 
somewhat, which could lead to more crude on the global market in the coming 

   Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.08 to close at $47.60 a barrel in New York. Oil 
finished down $2.16, or 4.3 percent, for the month. Brent crude, a benchmark 
for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.18 to close at 
$55.11 in London.

   The major stock indexes' anemic quarterly performance reflects lowered 
investor expectations for corporate earnings due to concerns over the impact 
falling oil prices and a strong dollar may have on big companies.

   "It's a pretty weak start for the S&P 500 because the market is pricing the 
very sharp decline in earnings that has been coming through the entire 
quarter," Bahuguna said.

   Companies will begin reporting financial results for the first three months 
of the year next week. Earnings for companies in the S&P 500 index are expected 
to be down 3 percent overall, according to S&P Capital IQ.

   Investors are monitoring economic data for clues about how earnings will 

   On Tuesday, they got a dash of encouraging data.

   The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index rose to 101.3 in 
March from revised 98.8 reading in February. The index reflects a pickup in 
hiring and suggests more consumer spending ahead. Separately, Standard & 
Poor's/Case-Shiller said home prices increased in January.

   The market opened lower on Tuesday and stayed in the red the rest of the day.

   All 10 sectors in the S&P 500 ended lower. Health care stocks led the 
decline, falling 1.5 percent. The sector is still up 6.2 percent for the year. 
Celgene notched the biggest decline in the S&P 500. Its shares fell $4.74, or 4 
percent, to $115.28.

   U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note 
slipped to 1.92 percent from 1.95 percent late Monday.

   In metals trading, gold fell $1.70 to $1,183.10 an ounce, silver fell eight 
cents to $16.60 an ounce and copper fell four cents to $2.74 a pound.

   In other futures trading on the NYMEX:

   -- Wholesale gasoline fell 2.1 cents to close at $1.780 a gallon.

   -- Heating oil fell 1.3 cents to close at $1.718 a gallon.

   -- Natural gas fell 0.4 cents to close at $2.640 per 1,000 cubic feet.

   Among other stocks making big moves Tuesday:

   -- Synta Pharmaceuticals tumbled 16.7 percent after the biotechnology 
company priced a public offering of 22 million shares below the prior day's 
closing price. The stock shed 39 cents to $1.94.

   -- Shares in Charter Communications jumped 5.3 percent on news the company 
has agreed to buy fellow cable operator Bright House Networks in a deal valued 
at $10.4 billion. Charter added $9.72 to $193.11.

   -- Movado Group surged 11.3 percent after the luxury watch maker reported 
better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit and raised its quarterly dividend by 
10 percent. The stock gained $2.89 to $28.52.


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