Stocks Drop on Disappointing Durables

U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday after a disappointing report on durable-goods orders .The Dow Jones Industrial Average  lately fell 44.12 points to 13,153.61.  The S&P 500 Index was off 7.36  points to 1,405.16 . The Nasdaq Composite was down 14.56 points to 3,105.79.

Orders for big-ticket items rose 2.2% in February, government data showed Wednesday, reflecting broad strength in demand across most U.S. industries. Excluding the volatile transportation sector, the government said orders rose 1.6%. Orders minus defense increased 1.7%.

The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy U.S. homes dipped in February from nearly a two-year high. The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its index of sales agreements declined 0.5 percent last month to a reading of 96.5. January’s reading of 97 was the highest since April 2010, the last month buyers could qualify for a federal home-buying tax credit.

Tyco International Ltd.(NYSE:TYC)’s flow-control business will merge with Pentair Inc., (NYSE:PNR) the Minneapolis provider of fluid-processing solutions, the companies said on Wednesday.

The French government said Wednesday that it may release oil from its strategic reserves, and was waiting for recommendations from the International Energy Agency before moving ahead.

Crude-oil futures fell Wednesday amid reports of a possible coordinated oil release by France, the U.S. and the U.K., and as the market awaited a weekly update on U.S. oil inventories. Crude for April delivery fell 92 cents, or 0.9%, to $106.42 a barrel.

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