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Stocks got crushed, sending the Dow back into the red for the year, with healthcare stocks falling the most in the final day of trading in the first quarter. 

First, the scoreboard:

  • Dow: 17,776.12 -200.19 (-1.11%)
  • S&P 500: 2,067.89 -18.35 (-0.88%)
  • Nasdaq: 4,900.88 -46.56 (-0.94%)

And now, the top stories on Tuesday:

  1. The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index was dismal for a second straight month. The March reading came in at 46.3, while expectations were pinned at 51.7. Any reading below 50 indicates a contraction. Phillip Uglow, chief economist of MNI Indicators, said: “While purchasers expect to see demand increase over the second quarter, for now the data point to a significant loss of momentum in the US economy during Q1.”
  2. In other economic data, home prices rose 0.87% in January month-over-month, and rose 4.56% year-over-year, compared to expectations for 0.6% and 4.6% respectively. Prices rose 0.91% in December. And, data from the Conference Board showed consumer confidence soared in March, at 101.3 (versus 96.4 in February,) mostly on expectations of higher pay. The reading was unchanged from January.
  3. West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell by over 2% to as low as $ 47.28 a barrel. Brent crude, the international benchmark, also fell by more than 2% to around $ 54.97. On Wednesday, the Energy Information Administration will release the weekly data on US oil inventories, which are still around 80-year highs.
  4. Corn and wheat futures tanked after the US Department of Agriculture released its Prospective Plantings Survey. According to the department, stockpiles for both crops will be larger than expected, and farmers will plant less corn this spring. Corn futures fell by over 4% while wheat futures fell by more than 3%.
  5. Greece may be just fine on its own outside the eurozone, according to Warren Buffett. In an interview with CNBC, the Berkshire Hathaway CEO said eurozone members cannot continue going “in dramatically different directions.” Greece is currently in negotiations over how to settle its debt, and Business Insider’s Mike Bird has a picture of the worst-case scenario if it doesn’t get a bailout deal. Buffett also said he “probably won’t do much” if he was in charge of monetary policy, especially given the weakness in Europe.
  6. Buffett expanded his portfolio by two small Virginia newspapers. He scooped up The Martinsville Bulletin and the Franklin News-Post in Rocky Mount, Virginia, from Haskell Newspapers. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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