Stocks Fall for Second Day; GM Slumps

Stocks in New York were lower Tuesday as investors brace for the start of earnings season.
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Updated from 4:31 p.m. EDT

Stocks in New York lost ground for a second session Tuesday as investors braced for the start of earnings season.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

lost 186.29 points, or 2.3% to 7789.56, and the

S&P 500

was down 19.93 points, or 2.4%, at 815.55. The

Nasdaq

shed 45.10 points, or 2.8%, to 1561.61.

On

the Dow

,

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Report

declined 5.9%, and

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

was off by 4.8%.

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

fared the worst, tumbling 11.9% to $2.

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Comments from two prominent investors, George Soros and Marc Faber, that the market could see a pullback in the near term also weighed on the mood.

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

was marking the start of earnings season with its first-quarter release after the close. The company reported a loss of 59 cents a share, about 3 cents worse than the estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters. Shares declined 1.5% in the regular session.

Before that report, a unit of

Rio Tinto

(RTP)

said that at current prices, 70% of the industry was operating at a financial loss. The company is

making cuts

in response to lagging demand in alumina and aluminum. Rio Tinto shares declined 4.6% to $126.67.

More broadly, this quarter will likely mark the

seventh straight time

the S&P 500 has recorded negative growth. That would be the longest negative era since Thomson Reuters began tracking the data in 1998.

"Expectations are very low, and nobody expects the first-quarter earnings to be good. Companies were very, very conservative in their expectations," says Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist Cantor Fitzgerald. One potential positive is that only a few warnings have come out recently, and that could mean things are going to be relatively in line with expectations, he says. "That's the best we can hope for."

The economic data has already told the bleak story of the first quarter, so outlooks are more important at this point, he says.

On that note,

Emerson Electric

(EMR) - Get Report

issued new sales and earnings guidance. Emerson reined in its 2009 profit and sales expectations, saying the top line will likely decrease 9% to 11% year over year because of declining demand and customer inventory reductions. Shares were flat at $30.89.

On Wednesday, the

Federal Reserve

will release more details on the state of the economy with the

minutes

of its March meeting. Also, the

Securities and Exchange Commission

is expected to discuss proposals related to the reinstitution of the

uptick rule

.

Back in corporate news, several bidders are considering

American International Group's

(AIG) - Get Report

asset management business

,

The Wall Street Journal

reported. The interested parties, fully aware that the insurance giant is scrambling to pay back some of the $170 billion it borrowed from taxpayers, are bidding well below the ordinary worth of the assets, the report says.

Meanwhile, Richard Parsons, the new chairman of

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

, which has received billions in taxpayer aid, said he feels the financial institutions have been

"vilified"

while "everybody, in reality, has some part of the blame."

Parsons also commented

on the sticky topic of Wall Street bonuses, saying that while the system needs modification, "to demonize the bankers alone for creating this financial meltdown is both inaccurate and shortsighted."

AIG shares were off by 4.6% at $1.05, while Citi ticked up 1.5% to $2.76.

Checking in on commodities, oil fell $1.90 to settle at $49.15 a barrel. Gold rose $10.50 to $883.30 an ounce.

Longer-dated Treasuries were rising. The 10-year was up 6/32 to yield 2.9%, and the 30-year was adding 7/32 and yielding 3.7%. The dollar was recently stronger against the yen, but weaker vs. the pound and euro.

In Europe, London's FTSE 100 and Frankfurt's Dax lost 1.6% and 0.6%, respectively. Stocks in Asia were modestly weaker, with the Nikkei 225 losing 0.3% and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong down 0.5%.

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