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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wall Street retreats but S&P, Nasdaq post quarterly gains

US stocks ended down today 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 Corp 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.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 200.19 points, or 1.11 percent, to 17,776.12, the S&P 500 lost 18.35 points, or 0.88 percent, to 2,067.89 and the Nasdaq Composite 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 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.

European shares slipped after their recent sharp rally but retained big gains for the quarter, with Germany's DAX posting its strongest first-quarter performance since its creation in 1988.

The DAX has surged 22 percent in the last three months, while the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares climbed 16 percent, boosted by the European Central Bank's asset-buying scheme which has helped weaken the euro currency.

Shares in the euro zone have seen the bulk of the gains, climbing 18 percent overall, a rise of about 665 billion euros ($710 billion) in market value over the past three months.

That is more than half the size of the ECB's quantitative easing programme, launched this month.

The central prediction from around 50 fund managers and strategists polled by Reuters in the past week was for the pan-European STOXX Europe 600 index to rise more than 6 percent from current levels to 425 points by the end of 2015.

The euro weakened in the run-up to the launch of the ECB scheme this month, as the U.S. Federal Reserve moves closer to raising interest rates.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares ended 0.7 percent lower, at 1,585.09 points.

Investors were booking profits on auto stocks, the sector which has risen the most since the start of the year. BMW fell 1.3 percent, and Renault dipped 1.5 percent. Despite the day's losses, the sector is still up 32 percent in the quarter.

UK's FTSE 100 index fell 1.7 percent, dragged lower by energy shares such as BP and Royal Dutch Shell , both down 2.1 percent, as oil prices sank again.

Bank of Ireland fell 7.8 percent after Canada's Fairfax Financial Holdings sold a 2.9 percent stake in the bank.

Both Germany's DAX index and France's CAC 40 ended down 1 percent, as investors booked recent gains.

Meanwhile, Japan's Nikkei share average dropped shedding early gains as investors took profits on the last trading day of the quarter.

The Nikkei benchmark fell 1.1 percent to 19,206.99 in choppy trade after rising to touch 19,607.25 in the morning. For the month, the Nikkei gained 2.2 percent and posted its three straight monthly gains. For January-March, it advanced 10 percent, rising for a fourth consecutive quarter.

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Tags:  US  stock market  Europe  Nikkei  





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