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Biotech Stocks Decline, Drag Down Stock Market This Week

Posted on March 29, 2014

The U.S. stock market pared most of its gains Friday after an early morning rally following generally positive consumer spending data petered out by mid-afternoon.

The Nasdaq Composite saw the worst week in 17 months, after a week-long selloff in biotechs dragged the index down.

The S&P 500 ended the day 8.58 points, or 0.5%, higher at 1,857.62, and recorded a 0.5% loss for the week. With only one trading session left this month, the benchmark index is set to finish March roughly where it started.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 58.83 points at 16,323.06 and is 0.1% higher on the week.

The Nasdaq Composite finished the day up 4.53 points, or 0.1%, at 4,155.76. The tech-heavy index is down 2.8% for the week, its worst performance since Oct 2012.

Read the recap of MarketWatch’s live blog of Friday’s stock-market action .

“Today’s economic data was as expected, but compared to the last few months there is an improvement, suggesting that the economy’s slowdown this year is weather-related and temporary,” said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones.

“This was enough good news for stocks to go higher this morning,” Warne added.

Consumer spending rose in February at the fastest rate since November as Americans spent more on health care and utilities, but in a negative sign, purchases of big-ticket items fell for the third straight month. Personal income also ticked up in February.

Next week will offer a barrage of economic data, which are expected to have less weather-related distortions and provide a better view of the economy.

Separately, consumer sentiment declined to a final March reading of 80 — the lowest level since November — from a final February level of 81.6, according to a Friday report on a gauge from the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters. A preliminary March reading pegged the level at 79.9. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a final March level of 81. Economists watch sentiment levels to get a feeling for the direction of consumer spending. Read: Spotlight on the economy.

IPOs see mixed action; Biotechs slide

Heavy losses among biotech stocks dragged the Nasdaq Composite down. The Nasdaq Biotechnology index fell 2.8%. Biogen Idec, Inc. and Gilead Sciences, Inc. were among the top five losers on the S&P 500, falling 5% and 4.9% respectively.

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