U.S. stocks fell for a third straight session on Monday as a previously buoyant market limped into earnings season.
The latest worries about the euro zone sovereign debt crisis also weighed on investors, diverting attention from a flurry of merger activity.
The European Central Bank threw Portugal a temporary lifeline on Monday by buying up its bonds, traders said, as market and peer pressure mounted for Lisbon to seek an international bailout soon.
It's certainly a valid concern, said Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading in Chatham, New Jersey. But they all just go away, you ever notice that? They just throw some money at it, and everything is fine, but eventually it won't be.
Topping the list of deals announced on Monday, Duke Energy Corp
Shares of Progress slid 2 percent to $43.81, and Duke fell 2.1 percent to $17.42. DuPont, a Dow component, fell 3.4 percent to $48.06.
Markets had advanced recently ahead of the upcoming earnings season. Last week the Dow and S&P notched a sixth straight week of gains, while the Nasdaq rose 1.9 percent.
But the benchmark S&P 500 was on track for its third straight session of declines, its first three-day losing streak since late November.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> fell 73.11 points, or 0.63 percent, at 11,601.65. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> lost 6.50 points, or 0.51 percent, at 1,265.00. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> shed 16.30 points, or 0.60 percent, at 2,686.87.
Education stocks slipped after Strayer Education Inc
Strayer shares plunged 22.2 percent to $119.21. Corinthian Colleges Inc
General Electric Co
(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)