Wall Street down for second straight day; energy weak

By Reuters

Mar 24, 2015 05:43 PM EDT

U.S. stocks fell for a second straight session on Tuesday, with equities maintaining a tight range that corresponded with currency fluctuations as traders focused on the dollar's strength and its possible effect on corporate earnings.

Data from home sales to inflation and manufacturing indicated the U.S. economy remains strong, but failed to alter expectations of a faster or steeper monetary policy tightening path at the Federal Reserve.

Traders have honed in on how the Fed will react to economic data, as a June interest rate increase remains a possibility. Stocks have been inversely correlated to the U.S. dollar and several multinational companies have given earnings forecasts that cited a negative impact from a strong greenback.

"I don't think there is a tremendous amount of trepidation about earnings season. We will clearly see the impact of lower energy prices as well as the stronger dollar," said David Lefkowitz, Senior Equity Strategist at UBS in New York.

"Those two factors are fairly well-known, so I don't expect it is going to be much in the way of a surprise for most companies when they do report earnings, but clearly those temporary factors are going to weigh on the growth for the first quarter."

The S&P energy index .SPNY lost 0.8 percent as Brent crude LCOc1 settled down 1.5 percent at $55.11 a barrel after the dollar gained ground against the euro EUR=. The dollar index .DXY zigzagged between gains and losses against a basket of major currencies and was up 0.14 percent on the day.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 104.9 points, or 0.58 percent, to 18,011.14, theS&P 500 .SPX lost 12.92 points, or 0.61 percent, to 2,091.5 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXICdropped 16.25 points, or 0.32 percent, to 4,994.73.

Declines on the Nasdaq were tempered by a boost from Google (GOOGL.O), up 2.2 percent to $577.54. Morgan Stanley's (MS.N) chief financial officer is leaving the bank to join Google.

Biotechs were down for a second straight session, pulled lower by a 2.4 percent drop in Biogen (BIIB.O) to $452.71. The Nasdaq biotech index .NBI is down 2.9 percent in the past two sessions after snapping an eight-day winning streak.

Whiting Petroleum Corp (WLL.N) plunged 19.5 percent to $30.91. North Dakota's largest oil producer announced an offering of 35 million shares and a $1.75 billion mix of notes and convertible notes to help cut its near-$6 billion debt load.

Volume was light, with about 5.29 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.8 billion average so far this month, according to BATS Global Markets.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,708 to 1,317, for a 1.30-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,415 issues fell and 1,284 advanced, for a 1.10-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 22 new 52-week highs and 1 new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 104 new highs and 22 new lows.

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