Market Wrap: Stocks Retreat; S&P, Nasdaq Post Quarterly Gains

Dow Starts Week Off With Sharp Gains, Closing Over 250 Points Higher
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks ended lower Tuesday in a retreat from the previous session's sharp rally as energy shares declined and the dollar edged up, but the S&P 500 and Nasdaq registered their ninth straight quarterly rise.

The S&P's 500 quarterly winning streak was its longest since 1998, while the Nasdaq's was its longest ever. The Dow registered a slight loss for the quarter.

In the day's action, energy shares were among the biggest drags as crude oil fell. The S&P Energy index declined 0.9 percent, while shares of Exxon Mobil (XOM) fell 0.7 percent to $85.

%VIRTUAL-WSSCourseInline-975%Oil was pressured as Iran and six world powers continued talks on a nuclear deal that could see the energy-rich country increase oil exports.

The dollar added to its sharp gains for the quarter, stoking worries about earnings for U.S. multinationals. S&P 500 earnings are expected to have declined by 2.8 percent in the first quarter from a year ago, Thomson Reuters data showed.

"Today's price action is a reflection of all the bad in the quarter -- the stronger dollar, weaker oil -- and in some respects just a snapback from yesterday's outsized gains," said John Canally, chief economic strategist for LPL Financial in Boston.

"Tomorrow's a new quarter and there's a new batch of people ready to take some risks, so I wouldn't be surprised if we see an up day."

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 200.19 points, or 1.11 percent, to 17,776.12, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) lost 18.35 points, or 0.88 percent, to 2,067.89 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 46.56 points, or 0.94 percent, to 4,900.88.

The day's decline in stocks followed gains of more than 1 percent Monday on each of the major indexes.

All three indexes also posted losses for the month, with the Dow down 2 percent, S&P 500 down 1.7 percent and the Nasdaq down 1.3 percent.

For the first quarter, the Dow declined 0.3 percent, the S&P 500 gained 0.4 percent and the Nasdaq gained 3.5 percent.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Endurance Specialty Holdings agreed to buy reinsurer Montpelier Re Holdings for about $1.83 billion, while Charter Communications agreed to acquire Bright House Networks in a roughly $10 billion deal.

Charter (CHTR) rose 5.3 percent to $193.11 while Montpelier (MRH) rose 0.8 percent to $38.44. Endurance (ENH) fell 4.9 percent to $61.14.

March payrolls data are due Friday, when the stock market is closed for the Good Friday holiday. If the report is strong, investors could view the U.S. Federal Reserve as more likely to raise rates earlier than currently expected.

NYSE decliners outnumbered advancers 1,794 to 1,247, for a 1.44-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,649 issues fell and 1,090 advanced, for a 1.51-to-1 ratio.

The S&P 500 posted 22 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the Nasdaq composite recorded 72 new highs and 42 new lows.

About 6.2 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.7 billion daily March average, according to BATS Global Markets.

What to watch Wednesday:

  • Monsanto (MON) reports quarterly financial results before U.S. markets open.

  • Automakers release vehicle sales for March.

  • The Mortgage Bankers Association releases weekly mortgage applications at 7 a.m.

  • ADP (ADP) reports private payroll employment for March at 8:15 a.m.

  • At 10 a.m., the Institute for Supply Management releases its manufacturing index for March, and the Commerce Department releases construction spending for February.