Major U.S. stock indexes veered lower in late-afternoon trading Tuesday, on course for their first decline in two days. Traders seized on the final day of the quarter to do some profit-taking and prune their portfolios. Health care stocks were among the biggest decliners. Oil prices extended their slide.
At the close on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 200.2 points, or about 1.1 percent, at 17,776.1. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 18.4 points, or about 1 percent, to 2,068. The Nasdaq composite shed 46.6 points, or about 1 percent, to 4,901.
QUARTER'S END: Trading, as is often the case at the end of the quarter, was impacted by traders looking to close out positions to make their books look as healthy as possible.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was down 66 cents to $48.02 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
THE QUOTE: Following a big jump in the markets Monday, many investors were opting to take back some profits by selling, said Paul Christopher, head of international strategy at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute.
"There's also rising concern about oil prices, especially as the U.S. gets closer to a deal with Iran, there's some speculation that Iran will be able to release a lot of oil into the world," he said. That could stoke fears of deflation, which can hurt corporate profits, Christopher said.
HOME SWEET HOME: A key gauge of U.S. home prices increased in January. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index released Tuesday rose 4.6 percent in January compared with 12 months earlier. The increase in U.S. home prices comes amid a decline in homes for sale in many markets, which pushes prices higher.
SECTOR WATCH: Nine of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 were down. Energy stocks fell the most, while utilities edged higher. Specialty materials maker Allegheny Technologies notched the biggest decline among stocks in the S&P 500. Its shares fell $1.20, or 3.9 percent, to $29.63.
CABLE CONSOLIDATION: Shares in Charter Communications jumped 6.5 percent on news the company has agreed to buy fellow cable operator Bright House Networks in a deal valued at $10.4 billion. Charter added $12 to $195.40.