The benchmark 10-year Treasury surged by 14/32, diluting the yield to 1.91%. The dollar was up 0.27%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

Gold front month contracts for April added $6.70 to settle at $1611.30 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Light sweet crude oil contracts for April delivery dropped $1.58 to close at $92.16 a barrel.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported today that housing starts, or new home constructions, rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 917,000 in February from an upwardly revised 910,000 in January. Economists were expecting an increase to 915,000.

The bureau said building permits, a proxy for future construction, increased to a 946,000 annual rate, compared to the predicted rise to a 925,000 rate. The prior month's figure was downwardly revised to a 904,000 pace.

The Federal Reserve began its two-day policy meeting Tuesday and is scheduled to announce its latest policy stance at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. after the announcement.

AmerisourceBergen Corp ( ABC) shares jumped 3.6% to $50.06 Tuesday after the drug wholesaler announced a 10-year pharmaceutical distribution agreement with Walgreen ( WAG), the U.S.'s largest drugstore chain, and Walgreen affiliate and European drug wholesaler Alliance Boots. The deal also gives the companies rights to acquire a minority stake in AmerisourceBergen of up to 23%.

AmerisourceBergen forecast its revenues will rise $25 billion in the first year of deal.

Shares of Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health ( CAH) tumbled 8.2% to $42.35 as the company's pharmaceutical distribution contract with Walgreen expires at the end of August and its services are mainly replaced by AmerisourceBerge.

Walgreen gained 5.4% to $44.74. The company on Tuesday reported fiscal second-quarter earnings of 96 cents a share on revenue of $18.65 billion, compared with expectations of 93 cents a share on revenue of $18.74 billion.

Electronic Arts ( EA) finished off 8.3% to $17.15 after announcing that CEO John Riccitiello is resigning from the games software maker as it struggles to reverse declining sales.

Riccitiello, who joined Electronic Arts in 1991, is relinquishing his position and leaving the company's board on March 30.

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