Stocks edge lower as bull market enters 3rd year

The two-year anniversary of the fastest bull market since the 1950s ended on a down note.

The two-year anniversary of the fastest bull market since the 1950s ended on a down note.

Stocks dipped Wednesday as crude oil prices hovered near $104 a barrel, continuing a three-week run of high prices that economists say could slow the economic recovery.

Stocks hit 12-year lows on March 9, 2009, dragged down by the financial crisis. The S&P 500 index, the benchmark for most U.S. mutual funds, has had a total return of 102 percent since then, including dividends. It was the best two-year period for the index since 1955, according to Standard & Poor's.

The S&P index lost 1.80 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 1,320.02. The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 1.29, or less than 0.1 percent, to 12,213.09. The Nasdaq composite fell 14.05, or 0.5 percent, to 2,751.72.

The conflict in Libya has raised concerns about a drop in oil production, causing a surge in crude prices. Oil prices have jumped about $20 per barrel since mid-February, when the Libyan uprising started.

Libya accounts for only 2 percent of global oil output. But the worry is that uprisings that have toppled governments in Tunisia and Egypt will spread to larger oil producing countries like Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude exporter.

IBM Corp. gained 2.2 percent after analysts at Deutsche Bank and other brokerages raised their forecasts for the company's stock price.

Bon-Ton Stores Inc. jumped 10.5 percent. The department store chain said its profit climbed six percent as sales open at least a year improved.

Texas Instruments Inc. dropped 3.1 percent. After the market closed Tuesday, the company narrowed its sales and profit estimates for the current quarter. Demand for chips for televisions and personal computers remained weak.

Declining stocks narrowly outpaced rising ones on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume was 3.7 billion.

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