Wall St. retreats but S&P, Nasdaq post quarterly gains

By Reuters

Mar 31, 2015 05:48 PM EDT

U.S. stocks ended down on 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 CLc1 fell. The S&P Energy index .SPNY declined 0.9 percent, while shares of Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) fell 0.7 percent to $85.

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 S&P 500 .SPX lost 18.35 points, or 0.88 percent, to 2,067.89 and the NasdaqComposite .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 on each of the major indexes on Monday.

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

Endurance Specialty Holdings Ltd (ENH.N) agreed to buy reinsurer Montpelier Re Holdings Ltd (MRH.N) for about $1.83 billion, while Charter Communications Inc (CHTR.O) agreed to acquire Bright House Networks in a roughly $10 billion deal.

Charter rose 5.3 percent to $193.11 while Montpelier rose 0.8 percent to $38.44. Endurance 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 theNasdaq, 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.

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