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US: Wall St ends down 5th session; oil prices fall further


[NEW YORK] US stocks ended lower for a fifth session on Tuesday as data showed slower growth in the US service sector and oil prices fell further.

The S&P 500's losing streak was its longest in about 13 months, but the index ended off the day's lows, having fallen as much as 1.4 per cent earlier, at one point breaking below the 2,000 level for the first time since Dec 17.

Data on Tuesday pointed to slowing growth in the fourth quarter. The pace of expansion in services moderated in December and new orders for manufactured goods fell for a fourth consecutive month in November.

The S&P 500 is down 4.2 per cent for the last five sessions, with the Dow and S&P 500 suffering on Monday their biggest drops since early October.

Among the day's biggest drags, the S&P energy sector fell 1.3 per cent as oil prices slid further on mounting worries about a supply glut. US crude settled at US$47.93 a barrel, down 4.2 per cent on the day. Shares of energy names tumbled, including Southwestern Energy, down 5 per cent at US$24.71, as brokerages continued to cut price targets. "It seems to be about oil prices. The big debate out there is what does it mean and is there this massive global economic slowdown," said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at North Star Investment Management Corp in Chicago. "But besides that, economic news has been modestly disappointing," he said.

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 130.01 points, or 0.74 per cent, to 17,371.64, the S&P 500 lost 17.97 points, or 0.89 per cent, to 2,002.61 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 59.84 points, or 1.29 per cent, to 4,592.74.

An election in Greece, which may trigger its exit from the euro zone, is about three weeks away, increasing the difficulty for the European Central Bank to move towards quantitative easing as it attempts to stabilize the region's economy.

Among gainers, AOL Inc shares rose 3.4 per cent to US$46.25 a day after a report that Verizon Communications approached AOL about a potential acquisition or joint venture.

About 8.3 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges, above the 5.5 billion average for the last five sessions, according to BATS Global Markets.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,076 to 1,011, for a 2.05-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 2,117 issues fell and 657 advanced for a 3.22-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 14 new 52-week highs and 15 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 38 new highs and 73 new lows.


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