3/23/2016, 9:25 PM (Source: TeleTrader)
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Closing bell: Markets close decidedly lower

Stock markets in the United States and Canada saw a day of losses, with oil prices dropping below $40 a barrel and strong U.S. dollar, depressing stocks of oil companies.

On the Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.45% at 17,503 points. Nike Inc. was the biggest decliner, losing 3.99%, while Caterpillar, Inc. dropped 2.44%. Chevron was the leader of losers among the energy companies, and slid 1.90%. UnitedHealth Group Inc. added 1.36%, Visa rose 1.21%, while Johnson & Johnson came up 0.95%.

The S&P 500 index dipped 0.64% to close at 2,036 points. Chesapeake Energy Corporation plunged 12.97%, followed by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. crash of 11.23%, with background of considerable drop in the gold prices. Marathon Oil Corporation spilled 9.06%, Southwestern Energy Company sank 8.79%, and more energy companies were also hurt by losses of over 7% each. The day's winner was energy company Pepco Holdings, Inc. as its shares rocketed up 27.21% as the Washington District County regulators approved its merger with Exelon to create largest publicly-held utility in the country. Exelon shares, in turn, closed down 0.77%.

The tech-laden Nasdaq 100 closed 0.79% down at 4,402 points, with Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated rolling down 7.54% after a clash with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the United Kingdom, which found the Vertex's cystic fibrosis treatment was too pricey for the limited resources of the National Health Service (NHS). Micron Technology, Inc. lost 6.95%, and Seagate Technology, Inc. dropped 5.97%. Tesla Motors, Inc. dipped 4.94% after the electric car maker missed New York Auto Show. Electronic Arts Inc. added 1.85%, and NVIDIA Corporation was up 1.70%.

In Toronto, the S&P/TSX index closed down 0.85% to 13,378 points with mining sector plunging 10.62%. Gaming tech Amaya Inc. melted down 20.62%, while First Quantum Minerals Limited dag deep down 15.48%. Energy and materials sectors also weighed on the index, while consumer staples saw a rise of 0.99%.

The U.S. dollar was strengthening throughout the day, an indicator of the possible market trends, as it makes commodities - traded for, or denominated in dollars - less attractive for buyers which hold other currencies such as the euro. The greenback rose 1.27% against its Canadian counterpart, which is strongly dependent on oil prices and export outlook. The dollar was 0.32% stronger compared to the euro, 0.23% against the Swiss franc, and up 0.65% versus the U.K. pound, while adding just 0.03% to already strong Japanese yen, all at 9:22 p.m. CET (4.22 p.m. EST). The dollar index was 0.41% stronger.

The U.S. light sweet crude West Texas Intermediate for May delivery fell 4.17% to $39.73 a barrel at the Intercontinental Exchange by 9:00 p.m. CET (4:00 p.m. EST). The daily high was $42.19 a barrel. The international benchmark Brent dropped 3.13% to $40.53 a barrel, after hitting daily high of $42.47 a barrel.

Image: Beta/AP

Breaking the News / ZR