Stocks Closed Lower Amid EU Worries

U.S. stocks closed lower on Wednesday, breaking three straight days of gains, after signs of weak European business activity rekindled concerns about a recession overseas. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 27.02 points, or 0.21%, to 12,938.67. The S&P 500 fell 4.55 points, or 0.33%, to 1,357.66. The Nasdaq Composite fell 15.40 points, or 0.52%, to 2,933.17.

Business activity across the euro area contracted unexpectedly this month, according to a purchasing managers index released Wednesday, raising doubts about the 17-nation region’s ability to avoid a recession that could further complicate the sovereign debt crisis. The preliminary composite purchasing managers index fell to 49.7 in February from 50.4 last month, according to financial-information- services firm Markit, which compiles the index. A reading of less than 50 signals a contraction in activity.

A four-day rise in oil prices stalled Wednesday following a weak report on Chinese manufacturing and lingering concerns about Greece’s bailout. A four-day rise in oil prices stalled Wednesday following a weak report on Chinese manufacturing and lingering concerns about Greece’s bailout.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday proposed a lower corporate tax rate and an end to dozens of loopholes he said helps U.S. companies move jobs and profits overseas.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) on Wednesday reported a fiscal first-quarter profit of $1.47 billion, or 73 cents a share, compared with a profit of $2.6 billion, or $1.17 a share, for the year-earlier period. Revenue was $30.04 billion, down from $32.3 billion.

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