Stocks sold off in the final hour of trading Monday, wiping out any gains Wall Street achieved in February.
A health care selloff to begin the week led to broad losses across equity markets on Monday. The S&P 500 ended the session 0.82% lower, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.75%, and the Nasdaq fell 0.71%. Benchmark indexes were up roughly half a percent earlier in the session.
While the S&P 500 ended the month 0.4% lower, its marginal losses marked a welcome departure from January's stretch of selloffs that saw stocks lose more than 5%. A turn in sentiment in the past two weeks helped to buoy sentiment and entice cautious investors to return to equities.
"After a rough winter, concerns of higher interest rates and woes in the energy sector, the past two weeks have once again put a bounce in investors' steps," said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management. "The economic data has been a bit better, with a positive revision to overall economic growth (thanks to inventory building), a still robust housing sector and a dollar that has stopped its dizzying climb."
The health care sector was the worst performer Monday led by a selloff in shares of Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) . The drug company slumped after retracting its financial guidance and announcing plans to reschedule its fourth-quarter earnings report. Valeant has been under intense pressure over investigations into its pricing structure and resulting accounting problems.
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Crude oil added to gains on Monday after Saudi Arabia voiced its support for cooperation among members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to stabilize prices. Key OPEC members and Russia have engaged in negotiations over a production cap in recent weeks.
"The kingdom (of Saudi Arabia) seeks to achieve stability in the oil markets and will always remain in contact with all main producers in an attempt to limit volatility and it welcomes any cooperative action," the Saudi Arabian cabinet wrote in a statement.
Crude prices have seen volatile swings as talk among the countries' oil ministers fueled hope and skepticism a production cap agreement could be reached. West Texas Intermediate crude was up 3% to $33.75 a barrel.
A prolonged period of lower oil prices was hurting a number of oil producers. Both NRG Energy (NRG) and Consol Energy (CNX) announced cuts to their dividend payouts on Monday, following in major oiler BHP Billiton's (BHP) footsteps. BHP cut its dividend for the first time in 15 years last week.
The U.S. housing sector cooled in January with pending home sales falling 2.5% to an index reading of 106. The slowdown was likely tied to the fallout from January blizzards and colder winter weather. The index tracks the number of home sales deals in which a contract has been entered but not yet finalized.
Economic activity in the Chicago area fell into contraction in February, dragged on by slowing production and fewer new orders in the manufacturing sector. The employment index also fell to its worst level since 2009.
A weekend meeting of G20 leaders failed to result in any meaningful action to encourage global growth. G20 finance ministers met in Shanghai over the weekend and agreed to use "all policy tools -- monetary, fiscal and structural -- individually and collectively." However, no concrete plans were made to address slowing economic growth in the global economy, particularly in China. China's GDP fell to a 25-year low last year, growing at 6.9% from 7.3% growth in 2014.
In earnings news, Lumber Liquidators (LL) fell after swinging to a fourth-quarter loss on the back of slumping growth tied to concerns over the safety of its products. The flooring retailer reported a loss of 73 cents a share, far wider than an expected loss of 23 cents.
Taser International (TASR) shares surged 11% after besting analysts' estimates in its recent quarter. The body-cam manufacturer earned 9 cents a share, a dime better than expected, while revenue jumped 20% to $56 million.
Sysco (SYY) climbed after announcing plans to cut 1,200 jobs in the next 15 months, roughly 2% of its workforce. The food distributor said the layoffs would largely be in administrative roles. Sysco expects to book charges related to severance costs between $25 million and $30 million.