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Stocks tumble in last hour, close lower; oil up 3%

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Stocks tumble in last hour, close lower; oil up 3%

Stocks gave back early gains and fell sharply in the last hour of trading as the major indexes closed lower, breaking a two-day winning streak. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 5.43 points, or less than 0.1%, to 17,875.42, after being up more than 100 points earlier in the session. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 4.29 points, or 0.2%, to 2076.33 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index fell 7.08 points, or 0.1%, to 4910.23.635639986880951512-GTY-465406058

Investors have been on edge in advance of earnings season as fears of slowing corporate profits have weighed on markets. First-quarter earnings season kicks off Wednesday as Alcoa reports results after the bell. Wall Street analysts expect profits for S&P 500 companies to contract 2.8%, which would mark the first year-over-year earnings drop since the third quarter of 2009, according to earnings tracker Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Utilities led the market lower as the sector dropped more than 1%. Health care and energy were the only sectors of the 10 S&P 500 sectors to hold onto gains. Energy stocks rose as oil prices surged for a second day. Benchmark U.S. crude gained 3% to $53.38 a barrel, adding to Monday’s 6% rise. Chevron rose 1.4% and ExxonMobil gained 0.7%. Earlier in the day, stocks rose after a batch of corporate deals and a growing sense that the Fed will push back its first rate hike to sometime in the third quarter or perhaps later lifted stocks.

Global stock markets were higher as European markets rallied. France’s CAC-40 gained 1.5% and Germany’s DAX was up 1.3%. Britain’s FTSE 100 added 1.9%. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.25% and the Shanghai Composite surged 2.5%. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange was closed for a holiday. Wall Street shrugged off the weak March jobs report, which was released Friday when the stock market was closed for Easter, and drove stocks sharply higher Monday amid a growing sense that the Fed will push back its first rate hike to sometime in the third quarter or perhaps later.

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