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Stocks End Lower on Tepid U.S. Data, Energy Sector Pullback


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks finished at session lows Tuesday following lackluster housing and consumer confidence data, and a pullback in the energy sector weighed down by natural gas stocks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 43.9 points, or 0.3%, at 13,198 and the S&P 500 fell 4 points, or 0.3%, at 1413, as the energy sector fell more than 1%. The Nasdaq was down 2.2 points, or 0.07%, at 3120, receiving some support from tech heavyweight Apple (AAPL).

Shares of the iPad and iPhone maker gained 1.2% as its chief executive officer Tim Cook arrived in China to meet with local officials, ahead of company's plans to ramp up investments in the world's most populous market.

The Conference Board said that its consumer confidence index pulled back slightly in March to a reading of 70.2. The level was slightly worse than the expected 70.4, and down from an upwardly revised 71.6 in February.

Earlier, the S&P Case-Shiller home price index showed that U.S. home prices fell 0.8% in January and 3.8% annually. Economists according to Thomson Reuters expected prices to inch higher by 0.2% during January, making for a drop of 3.7% compared to the same time last year.

The report followed of slew of recent data pointing to a still weak housing market. "Prices are bottoming but not necessarily turning upwards," wrote Dan Greenhaus, strategist with BTIG. "Historically, housing bubbles tend to see home prices on average bottom out six years after peaking. As such, if the United States were to suffer a decidedly average housing crash, this summer would mark the point at which prices should begin turning upwards on a sustained basis."


 
 
 
 
 


On Tuesday, Germany's DAX ended flat, while London's FTSE finished behind by 0.56%. The Hong Kong Hang Seng closed up 1.83% while the Nikkei Average in Japan finished higher by 2.36% overnight.

In corporate news, Oclaro (OCLR) agreed to acquire peer Opnext (OPXT) for stock. The deal calls for Oclaro to swap 0.42 of a share for each Opnext share. Opnext shares soared 53.1% to $1.73.

Eye care company Bausch & Lomb agreed to acquire Ista Pharmaceuticals (ISTA) for roughly $500 million in cash to expand its eye health portfolio. The acquisition price of $9.10 a share represents a 9% premium to Ista's closing price on Monday. Ista shares surged 7.9% to $9.04.

Apollo Group (APOL - Get Report), the for-profit education company, trounced Wall Street's fiscal second-quarter expectations. Apollo reported earnings from continuing operations excluding items of $73.8 million, or 58 cents a share, for the three months ended Feb. 29 on revenue of $969.6 million. Analysts expected profit of 37 cents a share on revenue of $933.3 million. Apollo, the operator of the University of Phoenix, said new degreed enrollment rose 1% in the quarter from a year earlier. Shares lost 8.5% to $39.54.

Homebuilder Lennar (LEN) reported first-quarter earnings of $15 million, or 8 cents a share, down from $27.4 million, or 14 cents a share, a year earlier. Still, the company's per-share earnings beat the average estimate of 4 cents a share, according to a Thomson Reuters survey of analysts. Shares were up 4.7% to $27.63.

Walgreen (WAG) reported fiscal second-quarter earnings Tuesday of 78 cents a share on sales of $18.7 billion. Analysts were expecting profit of 77 cents a share on sales of $18.58 billion. The company said the effect of no longer being part of the Express Scripts (ESRX) pharmacy provider network as of Jan. 1, 2012, impacted earnings by 7 cents a share. Shares were up 1.3% to $34.80.

May oil futures closed higher by 30 cents at $107.33. In other commodities, April gold futures settled down 70 cents at $1,684.90 an ounce.

The dollar index was 0.2% higher. The benchmark 10-year Treasury was up 18/32, pushing the yield down to 2.186%.

-- Written by Chao Deng and Andrea Tse in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Chao Deng.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to: @chao_deng

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.

Copyright 2011 TheStreet.com Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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