Stocks Opened Lower ahead of Fed Meeting

U.S. stocks opened lower on Tuesday ahead of the two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting that concludes Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately dropped 165.17 points, or 0.92%, to 17,812.25. The S&P 500 was down 10.50 points or 0.50%, to 2,070.69. The Nasdaq Composite fell 7.52 points, or 0.15%, to 4,921.99.

With the labor market continuing to sizzle, the timing of the first rate hike has come more sharply into focus. Many Fed watchers think the first rate hike will come at the June meeting. They argue the labor market, with the unemployment rate falling to 5.5% in February, shows a strong economy and that the central bank risks falling behind the curve on inflation.

U.S. housing starts plunged to their lowest level in a year in February likely as harsh weather kept building crews at home, in the latest indication that the economy hit a soft patch in the first quarter. Groundbreaking tumbled 17 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 897,000 units, the lowest level since January 2014, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday.

Plug Power (PLUG) reported a wider-than-expected fourth-quarter loss and sales that missed estimates. The net loss narrowed to $7.2 million, or 4 cents a share, from $28.9 million, or 28 cents a share, in the year-earlier period.

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