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Health care companies lead U.S. stocks lower; small caps slump

Trader Peter Castelli works on the floor of

Trader Peter Castelli works on the floor of the NYSE on April 11. Photo Credit: AP / Richard Drew

Stocks finished a wobbly day of trading on Wall Street Wednesday with modest losses that erased most of the market's slight gains from a day earlier.

A sharp sell-off in health care companies far outweighed gains in technology and other sectors. Smaller company stocks fell more than the rest of the market.

Insurers drove the health care sector slide for the second straight day. Investors fear the potential impact on profits from health reform ideas being discussed in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail.

Qualcomm led the gainers in the technology sector. Intel climbed after pulling out of the smartphone modem market. And T-Mobile and Sprint slumped on reports the Justice Department is questioning their proposed merger.

PepsiCo and Morgan Stanley rose after delivering better than expected quarterly results Wednesday. IBM and Netflix fell a day after reporting their earnings.

Investors are poring over company earning reports this week, focusing on companies' profit and revenue outlooks for the rest of this year. Analysts expect the first quarter results for S&P 500 companies overall to be the weakest in nearly three years.

"The market is in wait and see mode," said Jamie Lavin, global investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. "We're only 10 percent through earnings season, but so far, so good."

The S&P 500 fell 0.2 percent, to 2,900.45. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 3.12 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 26,449.54. The Nasdaq composite slid 0.1 percent to 7,996.08.

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