U.S. stocks decline as Cyprus bank levy renews euro concerns

Bull Market

The bull market in U.S. equities entered its fifth year this month as the S&P 500 more than doubled from its bottom in 2009, driven by better-than-expected corporate earnings and three rounds of bond purchases by the Federal Reserve. The S&P 500 rose to within two points of its 2007 record last week while the Dow reached an all-time high.

The Federal Open Market Committee is scheduled to begin a two-day meeting tomorrow. The committee in December agreed to link its zero-rate policy to thresholds for unemployment and inflation so investors and households know what conditions will prompt the Fed to consider raising its record-low interest rate.

Financial and commodities companies fell the most among 10 S&P 500 groups, losing at least 0.6%. The KBW Bank Index slid 0.8% as 22 of its 24 members retreated. Morgan Stanley tumbled 2.3% to $23.06 while Citigroup Inc. sank 2.1% to $46.29.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. slumped 1.6% to $152.43. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the trading firm in an investor lawsuit over mortgage-backed securities whose value plummeted during the 2008 financial crisis.

Crippled Cruise

Schlumberger fell 3.3% to $76.75. The world’s largest oilfield-services provider said North American customers are re-activating fewer-than-estimated rigs during the first quarter. Pricing is under pressure in the region, the company said in a conference hosted by Howard Weil Inc.

Carnival slid 2.5% to $34.08. At least three analysts cut their ratings on the cruise operator. The company, beset by mishaps at sea this year, last week reduced its annual earnings forecast to reflect costs from an engine fire that crippled the Carnival Triumph in February.

J.C. Penney Co. rallied 7.1%, the most in the S&P 500, to $16.58. The department store chain could turn its top 300 stores into a real estate investment trust-like entity that would sublet space to other brands, ISI Group analyst Omar Saad said in a note.

Apple added 3% to $456.73. The company is poised to boost its dividend by more than a half, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, providing investors hit by a share slump with one of the highest yields in the U.S. technology industry.

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