Market Wrap: Tech Stocks Lead Indexes Fall From Records

Financial Markets Wall Street
Richard Drew/AP

By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks finished lower Tuesday, a day after the S&P and Dow hit records, and the Nasdaq retreated along with technology stocks.

Soft auto sales numbers and Iran commentary also gave some investors pause after a strong run-up for major indexes in February. Traders were also waiting for a slew of economic data later this week, culminating with the monthly payrolls report.

%VIRTUAL-pullquote-We just came a little too far fast. It made sense to have little bit of a pullback here.%"We just came a little too far fast. It made sense to have little bit of a pullback here," said Brian Lazorishak, portfolio manager at Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"Given the level of optimism, the overbought condition, we wouldn't be surprised to see at least a couple of days of consolidation," he said.

Technology stocks fell as investors took profits a day after the Nasdaq hit the 5,000 milestone for the first time since the peak of the dot.com bubble in March 2000.

Microsoft (MSFT) weighed most on the Nasdaq and S&P 500 with an 1.4 percent drop to $43.28, followed by a 2.2 percent decline in shares of Cisco Systems (CSCO), which gave back most of Monday's gains.

Semiconductor chips were some of the worst-hit, with the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index closing off 1.94 percent after a February gain of more than 12 percent. The S&P 500 technology sector finished down 0.8 percent

The biggest percentage decliners in the S&P 500 were Micron Technology (MU), down 5 percent to $29.66, and Applied Materials (AMAT), which fell 4.5 percent to $24.48.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 85.26 points, or 0.47 percent, to 18,203.37, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) lost 9.61 points, or 0.45 percent, to 2,107.78 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 28.20 points, or 0.56 percent, to 4,979.90.

Weather-Impacted Auto Sales

For the second year in a row, tough winter weather slowed U.S. vehicle sales in February, with several automakers missing analyst projections. U.S.-listed Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) shares fell 3.3 percent to $15.31 while Ford Motor (F) declined 2.4 percent to $16.17.

Adding to investors' caution, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned U.S. President Barack Obama against accepting a nuclear deal with Iran. His comments caused some investors to pull back but helped boost oil prices.

Utilities and energy were the only two of 10 S&P 500 sectors that ended the session higher.

About 6.3 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.5 billion average for the last five sessions, according to BATS Global Markets.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,810 to 1,249, for a 1.45-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,784 issues fell and 948 advanced, for a 1.88-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The benchmark S&P 500 posted 11 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq composite recorded 70 new highs and 32 new lows.

-With additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak.

What to watch Wednesday:

  • The Institute for Supply Management releases its service sector index for February at 10 a.m. Eastern time.

  • The Federal Reserve releases its Beige Book survey of regional economic conditions at 2 p.m.

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