* S&P 500 rally hits pause button after string of modest
* Tech shares fall as big-cap companies weigh; Apple down
* Euro-zone crisis "not over," ECB official says
* Dow up 0.02 pct, S&P down 0.2 pct, Nasdaq down 0.3 pct
details for sectors)
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, March 12 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 ended lower on
Tuesday, breaking a seven-session string of gains as investors
pulled back from technology and financials, but the Dow eked out
the smallest of gains to finish at another all-time closing
The Dow also hit another lifetime intraday high, while the
S&P 500 remains within reach of its all-time closing high of
1,565.15, set on Oct. 9, 2007.
The market's rally in recent months has driven the Dow up
10.3 percent for the year and lifted the S&P 500 by 8.9 percent
for 2013 so far. Signs of improvement in the economy and the
Federal Reserve's quantitative easing have helped to propel the
Tech shares, which have lagged the rally, pulled indexes
lower as heavyweights such as Apple and Google
tumbled. Financials also underperformed the broader market on
Tuesday, with the S&P 500 financial index down 0.6
"You have a little bit of buyers' exhaustion at this
juncture. We've had this move that has been startlingly smooth
in terms of progression of advances, both since the beginning of
the year and certainly over the last six to seven trading
sessions," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at
Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.
"Investors are waiting for this collective correction ...
for some time, and it's teasing more and more buyers out of the
The Dow Jones industrial average rose just 2.77
points, or 0.02 percent, to 14,450.06, another record close.
Earlier, the Dow climbed to a lifetime intraday high of
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index dipped 3.74 points,
or 0.24 percent, to finish at 1,552.48 - about 13 points below
its record closing high.
The Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 10.55 points, or
0.32 percent, to close at 3,242.32.
Apple dropped 2.2 percent to $428.43. An analyst said the
company has a 25 percent chance of missing its quarterly revenue
forecast as iPhone sales slow.
Google fell 0.9 percent to $827.61, while the S&P tech
sector lost 0.6 percent.
After a light economic calendar the last couple of days,
investors will turn their attention to retail sales data on
Wednesday to get a sense of how consumers are faring. Sales are
expected to have increased 0.5 percent in February.
Adding to Tuesday's weakness, Jens Weidmann, head of the
Bundesbank and a member of the European Central Bank's governing
council, said the euro-zone crisis was not over.
Pullbacks during the rally so far this year have not been
too deep as investors look for a good place to buy. Market moves
have often been muted in recent days, even as stocks have ground
The S&P healthcare sector index rose 0.4 percent
and hit a fresh 52-week high at 519.97. Traditionally considered
a defensive bet, the healthcare sector has been one of the
leaders of the rally so far this year. It has gained 12.2
percent since Dec. 31.
In the short term, however, healthcare appears to be
overbought, suggesting investors may start to put their money
elsewhere or take profits. Based on the relative strength index,
healthcare has been overbought since the beginning of the month.
The S&P financial sector index and the S&P consumer
discretionary sector index are on the cusp of
overbought territory, while the S&P consumer staples sector
index is just over the line in overbought territory.
In comparison, the S&P tech sector index, though,
is not considered overbought; it ended down 0.6 percent on
Among the day's gainers, J.C. Penney Co Inc shares
rose 4 percent to $15.65 amid talk that the department store
chain's chief executive, Ron Johnson, might step down soon. A
company representative, however, said there was no basis to
market rumors that circulated Tuesday that Johnson might resign.
In another bright spot, Merck shares gained 3.2
percent to $45.04 after the pharmaceutical company said an
outside board had allowed it to continue a trial assessing its
Vytorin cholesterol drug.
Volume was below average, with roughly 5.82 billion shares
trading on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE
MKT, compared with the 2012 average daily closing volume of
about 6.45 billion.
Decliners outpaced advancers on the NYSE by a ratio of about
3 to 2 and, on the Nasdaq, by about 7 to 5.