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Stocks retrench after steep rally

By Kate Gibson, MarketWatch –

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks slid Tuesday as Wall Street offered muted reaction to the day’s economic data and took a break after the past months’ rally.

“I don’t think you can make anything too much out of today, it’s kind of a pause,” said Ken Tower, senior analyst at Quantitative Analysis Service Inc.

“When the eurozone averted a collapse, we went into a period of stability, which we didn’t fully appreciate towards the end of last year. What we’ve seen in the last couple of months is people who were under-invested trying to catch up, and certainly some end-of-quarter window dressing,” Tower added.

Up 8 percent year-to-date, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 43.90 points, or 0.3 percent, to 13,197.73.

The S&P 500 ended down 3.99 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,412.52, with financials down the most and utilities the best performing of its 10 sectors.

The Nasdaq composite lost 2.22 points, or 0.1 percent, to 3,120.35.

On Monday, stock indexes surged more than 1 percent, canceling last week’s losses and extending the quarter’s gains, after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said accommodative monetary policy continues to be warranted.

Treasury prices rose with the yield on the benchmark 10-year note, used in determining mortgages and other consumer loans, falling to about 2.19 percent.

Oil rose, with the futures contract for May delivery gaining 30 cents to end at $107.33 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold declined 70 cents to $1,684.90 an ounce.

The Conference Board’s confidence index fell to 70.2 in March from a revised 71.6 reading the prior month.

“Bottom line, confidence remains above 70 for a second straight month and is well off the low seen in February ’09 of 25.3 but is still below the 10-year average of 79.2,” Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak, said in an email.

Ahead of Wall Street’s open, data showed home prices in 20 major U.S. metropolitan areas falling at a slower rate in January, illustrating stabilization in the housing market.

Home builder Lennar Corp. rallied 4.7 percent after better-than-anticipated earnings.

Shares of Walgreen Co. also gained after the drugstore chain reported second-quarter profit that beat Wall Street’s expectations.

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