Stocks Fall as Investors Worry Over Energy Prices

Stocks tumbled Tuesday as strength in the commodities market fed inflation fears and stifled investors' enthusiasm over upbeat first-quarter earnings from Dow Jones industrial Alcoa Inc. (AA).

Although Alcoa's better-than-expected profit gave Wall Street confidence about the upcoming earnings season — which kicks into full swing next week — traders were anxious that higher energy and commodities prices would cut into corporate profits and drive up material costs.

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The Dow dropped 51.70, or 0.46 percent, to 11,089.63, its lowest close since finishing at 11,076.02 on March 13.

Broader stock indicators were also lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 10.05, or 0.78 percent, to 1,286.57 — also a one-month low — and the Nasdaq composite index fell 22.92, or 0.98 percent, to 2,310.35.

Jay Suskind, head trader for Ryan, Beck & Co., said that while energy prices have been steadily climbing over the past few weeks, political turmoil in Iran and Nigeria and forecasts for greater gasoline demand this summer are weighing on the market.

And as other commodities rise along with energy futures, the risk of higher prices being passed to consumers has investors again worried about more interest rates increases from the Federal Reserve, he said.

"(Commodities prices rising) would certainly seep through the economy," Suskind said, "and the Fed is going to hike rates to keep that inflation under control."

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