U.S. stocks dropped Tuesday morning in what’s expected to be a choppy trading session on the final day of 2015's first quarter. The Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly dropped more than 120 points following the opening bell, but managed to cut some losses after confidence among American consumers was shown to rebound this month after retreating in February.
In morning trading Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) dropped 120.08 points, or 0.67 percent, to 17,856.23. The Standard & Poor's 500 (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) dipped 12.43 points, or 0.60 percent, to 2,073.81. The Nasdaq composite (INDEXSP:.INX) fell 30.47 points, or 0.62 percent, to 4,916.97.
For the year, the blue-chip Dow is trading just slightly in positive territory, gaining 69 points, or 0.39 percent. For 2015, the S&P 500 index has risen 19 points, or 0.93 percent, while the Nasdaq composite has leaped more than 192 points, or 4.07 percent.
Meanwhile, economists await a speech about the U.S. economy from Kansas City Federal Reserve President Esther George at 3 p.m. EDT before the Council for Economic Education. The speech comes after Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker said Tuesday that there is a "strong case" for an increase in interest rates relatively soon.
Market professionals are also eyeing the ongoing debt negotiations in Greece. Athens and its creditors failed to reach a deal overnight regarding Greek reform plans, putting the country at risk of going bankrupt in a matter of weeks.
Data released Tuesday showed U.S. consumer confidence rose more than expected in March, hitting 101.3, up from 98.8 in February. Confidence had previously declined in February after jumping to 103.8 in January, its highest reading since August 2007. Economists had expected consumer confidence to rise slightly to 96.5 in March, according to a survey by FactSet.
An improved short-term outlook for both employment and income prospects drove March's increase, but consumers were less upbeat about business conditions.
"Consumers’ assessment of current conditions declined for the second consecutive month, suggesting that growth may have softened in the first quarter, and doesn’t appear to be gaining any significant momentum heading into the spring months,” Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement Tuesday.
Separately, U.S. home prices in 20 cities accelerated in January from a month earlier, coming in line with expectations despite seasonal weakness, the Case-Shiller home price index showed Tuesday. The 20-city price index rose 4.6 percent from a year earlier, up from 4.4 percent in December. Denver and Miami reported the highest gains over the last 12 months, as prices increased by 8.4 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively.
Shares of Montpelier Re Holdings Ltd. (NYSE:MRH) gained more than 3.5 percent Tuesday to $39.51 in morning trading after Endurance Specialty Holdings Ltd. (NYSE:ENH) announced it will buy the reinsurance company for $1.83 billion in cash and stock. Following the opening bell, Endurance Specialty Holdings’ stock price fell more than 2 percent to $62.85.
Oil prices extended losses for a third session Tuesday, as Iran and six world powers continue to negotiate over a deal that could ease Western sanctions and allow more Iranian crude into an oversupplied global market. West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices, dropped 1.11 percent Monday to $48.14 a barrel, for May 15 delivery, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the benchmark for global oil prices, fell more than 2 percent to $55.03 a barrel, for May 15 delivery, on the London ICE Futures Exchange.