News

US stocks move lower in afternoon trading as traders do some end-of-quarter profit-taking

Major U.S. stock indexes veered lower in late-afternoon trading Tuesday, on course for their first decline in two days. 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.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 130 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 17,846 as of 3:06 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 12 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 2,074. The Nasdaq composite shed 30 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 4,917.

THE QUOTE: Following a big jump in indexes Monday, many investors were opting to take some profits out of the market, said Paul Christopher, head of international strategy at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

“There’s also rising concern about oil prices, especially as the U.S. gets closer to a deal with Iran, there’s some speculation that Iran will be able to release a lot of oil into the world,” he said. That could stoke fears of deflation, which can hurt corporate profits, Christopher said.

MORE CONFIDENT: The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose to 101.3 in March from revised 98.8 reading in February. The improvement reflects a pickup in hiring. Over the past year, employers have added nearly 3.3 million jobs, the fastest 12-month pace of hiring since 1998.

HOME SWEET HOME: A key gauge of U.S. home prices increased in January. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index released Tuesday rose 4.6 per cent in January compared with 12 months earlier. The increase in U.S. home prices comes amid a decline in homes for sale in many markets, which pushes prices higher.

SECTOR WATCH: Nine of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 were down. Health care stocks fell the most, while consumer discretionary stocks edged higher. Kraft Foods Group notched the biggest decline in the S&P 500. Its shares fell $3.36, or 3.7 per cent, to $87.24.

BIG DISCOUNT: Synta Pharmaceuticals tumbled 17 per cent after the biotechnology company priced a public offering of 22 million shares of common stock below the prior day’s closing price. The stock shed 39 cents to $1.94.

CABLE CONSOLIDATION: Shares in Charter Communications jumped 6.5 per cent on news the company has agreed to buy fellow cable operator Bright House Networks in a deal valued at $10.4 billion. Charter added $11.99 to $195.38.

TIMELY PROFIT: Movado Group surged 9.3 per cent after the luxury watch maker reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit and raised its quarterly dividend by 10 per cent. The stock gained $2.37 to $28.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost $1.08 to close at $47.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

BONDS: U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 1.94 per cent from 1.95 per cent late Monday.

METALS: 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.