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updated: 2/4/2013 4:17 PM

US stocks close down after Dow's rally to 14,000

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  • U.S. stocks fell Monday, driving the Standard & Poor's 500 Index to its biggest decline since November, on concern that the European debt crisis may intensify and a smaller-than-forecast increase in American factory orders.

      U.S. stocks fell Monday, driving the Standard & Poor's 500 Index to its biggest decline since November, on concern that the European debt crisis may intensify and a smaller-than-forecast increase in American factory orders.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS

 
Associated Press

Stocks hit a big milestone, then promptly spun off the road.

Major indexes dived the most this year Monday, the first trading day after the Dow broke 14,000 and closed at its highest level since the financial crisis.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped as much as 143 points in afternoon trading. It closed down 129.71, or 0.9 percent, at 13,880.08.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 17.46 points, or 1.2 percent, to 1,495.71. The Nasdaq composite index lost 47.93, or 1.5 percent, to 3,131.17.

Monday's declines were the biggest drops this year for all three indexes. They followed a surge Friday that pushed the Dow over 14,000 for the first time since 2007, before the financial meltdown that routed world markets.

Friday was only the tenth time in its history that the Dow closed above 14,000. The first was in July 2007; the rest were in October of that year. The index closed Friday just 155 points shy of its record high, set that October.

The rally was powered by solid economic data, including a January jobs report that showed the labor market is strengthening gradually. A broad measure of manufacturing also rose sharply.

The Dow is up nearly 6 percent this year. Yet Wall Street's celebratory mood was a distant memory Monday, as U.S. stocks followed European markets lower. France's CAC-40 closed down 3 percent, Germany's DAX 2.5 percent.

"It started to look like things in the market are maybe getting a little ahead of themselves, compared to some of the data we've seen," said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Asset Management Group. He said problems in Europe are also beginning to affect U.S. markets after several quiet months.

Borrowing costs for Italy and Spain rose Monday, Stone noted, reflecting concerns among bond investors that those countries may be unable to meet their financial obligations.

"It kind of restarts some of the old worries that we've been able to ignore for quite some time," Stone said.

In New York, Merck & Co. was among the Dow's biggest losers, dropping 98 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $40.85. The pharmaceutical company said Friday that its earnings declined in the fourth quarter and 2013 might be weaker than analysts had hoped.

Boeing was the only rising stock among the 30 in the Dow.

Corporate earnings reports continue this week. Health insurer Humana leapt $3.51, or 4.7 percent, to $78.86 after its results beat Wall Street's forecasts.

Cruise operator Royal Caribbean fell after reporting a quarterly loss related to its Spanish cruise line, Pullmantur. Prices and bookings have plunged since the Spanish government imposed strict austerity measures, limiting Spaniards' ability to spend. Royal Caribbean shares dropped $1.26, or 3.4 percent, to $35.53.

Media company Gannett Co Inc. fell $1.33, or 6.7 percent, to $18.51. Gannett's earnings beat Wall Street's expectations, but the company warned that its TV ad revenue will be hurt this quarter by the absence of $5.1 million in political spending and the move of the Super Bowl from NBC to CBS.

Among other companies making big moves was network gear maker Acme Packet Inc., which surged $5.66, or 23.7 percent, to $29.59 after Oracle said it would acquire the company for $2.1 billion.

McGraw-Hill Cos. plunged $8.04, or 13.8 percent, to $50.30 after midday news reports that the Justice Department plans to file civil charges against the company's Standard & Poor's credit rating unit. The government charges are expected to question S&P's high ratings of mortgage bonds that helped fuel the financial crisis.

Moody's Corp., another rating agency, followed McGraw-Hill down, even though there is no evidence that the government will charge that company. Moody's closed down $5.90, or 10.7 percent, at $49.45.

The two rating agencies had the biggest percentage declines in the S&P 500 index.

In Europe, political jitters about Spain and Italy pushed stocks lower. Some indexes had their worst day in months.

Concerns over Europe's debt crisis have eased since last summer, in part because of efforts by the Spanish and Italian governments to get their finances under control.

An upcoming election in Italy places some of those reforms in doubt. The Spanish government, meanwhile, is embroiled in a corruption scandal that's raising questions over the future of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The euro fell to $1.3512. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.96 percent from 2.05 percent earlier Monday as demand for ultra-safe assets increased.

Oil prices drifted lower. Crude fell $1.60 to $96.17 a barrel in New York.

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