Stocks end slightly lower on China growth worries


Stocks drifted to a slightly lower finish Monday as investors sifted through a blend of discouraging economic data from China and Japan as well as ongoing uncertainty over Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.

Major market indexes pared their losses as the day drew to a close, aided by some high-flying stocks, including Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Chiquita Brands International and Southwest Airlines.

In the absence of U.S. economic data, investors focused on news that China’s exports slumped 18 percent in February. The report reinforced fears about the outlook for the world’s second-largest economy.

In addition, Japan reported a record current account deficit for January and lowered its economic growth estimate for the October-December quarter to 0.7 percent from 1 percent.

The Standard &Poor’s 500 index edged down 0.87 of a point to close at 1,877.17. It had been down 11 points earlier.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 34.04 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,418.68. The Nasdaq composite fell 1.77 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 4,334.45.

The three major U.S. indexes are still up for the month, and only the Dow is down for the year.