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US stocks drop ahead of Fed, data releases

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks fell on Monday, retreating at the start of a heavy week of economic news that includes a US Federal Reserve meeting and major earnings and data releases.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 26.51 points (0.15 per cent) at 17,977.24.

The broad-based S&P 500 dipped 3.79 (0.18 per cent) to 2,087.79, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 10.44 (0.21 per cent) to 4,895.79.

The Dow and S&P 500 hit peaks for 2016 last week as oil prices pushed higher, but oil prices fell Monday on renewed worries about abundant global supplies.

Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank, said investors are probably nervous ahead of Thursday's report on first-quarter US gross domestic product that could show very sluggish growth.

"The market is expensive and investors need to be showered with good news to buy stocks," Mr Ablin said.

Charter Communications rose 4.6 per cent on news that US antitrust regulators approved its purchases of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks after Charter accepted conditions from regulators to ensure adequate competition in online video distribution. Time Warner Cable rose 4.1 per cent.

Perrigo, a maker of over-the-counter medical products, slumped 18.1 per cent on news that chief executive Joseph Papa left the company to become chief executive of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International. Perrigo named president John Hendrickson as chief executive. Valeant fell 2.3 per cent.

Perrigo also projected 2016 earnings of US$8.20-US$8.60 per share, considerably less than the US$9.52 per share expected by analysts. Perrigo said tough industry competition was pressuring profit margins on pharmaceutical products.

Other pharma companies fell on the weak forecast, with Mylan sinking 6.8 per cent and Endo International 11.6 per cent.

Xerox plunged 13.3 per cent as it reported earnings that lagged analyst expectations following a four percent decline in revenues to US$4.3 billion. Xerox has cut costs in response to weak demand in emerging markets.

Petroleum producers fell as oil prices declined. Dow member Chevron lost 0.5 per cent, Marathon Oil 3.6 per cent and ConocoPhillips 2.8 per cent.

AFP