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US: Stocks drop on final day of first quarter

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks tumbled on Tuesday, snapping a two-day winning streak to close the first quarter on a sour note as volatility in equity markets stays high.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 200.19 points or 1.11 per cent to 17,776.12.

The broad-based S&P 500 fell 18.35 or 0.88 per cent to 2,067.89, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 46.56 or 0.94 per cent to 4,900.88.

US stocks have been choppy as investors ponder US monetary policy, Greece's prospects for staying in the eurozone and the big drop in oil prices.

"We're seeing an increase in volatility. Investors have a lot of questions," said Alan Skrainka, chief investment officer at Cornerstone Wealth Management.

Data on Tuesday showed a gain in consumer confidence in March and a modest year-on-year rise in US home prices in January.

Biotech stocks, which have been seen by some analysts as overvalued, fell sharply. Biogen lost 2.2 per cent, Celgene fell 4.0 per cent and Gilead Sciences declined 2.5 per cent.

Tech stocks that fell included Apple , Facebook and Netflix.

Cable TV operator Charter Communications bolted 5.3 per cent higher after announcing it would buy Bright House Networks for US$10.4 billion in cash and shares, bringing it an additional two million customers in Florida as well as four other US states.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell to 1.93 percent from 1.96 per cent, while the 30-year dipped to 2.54 per cent from 2.55 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

AFP