* Rally takes a break after string of modest gains
* Tech shares fall as big-cap companies weigh; Apple down
* Euro zone crisis "not over," ECB official says
* Indexes down: Dow 0.1 pct, S&P 0.3 pct, Nasdaq 0.5 pct
By Leah Schnurr
NEW YORK, March 12 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks sagged on Tuesday
as investors paused after a seven-session string of gains,
sending large-cap technology shares lower.
Investors' confidence has grown in recent months, leading to
a gain of more than 10 percent for the year by the Dow and
nearly 9 percent by the S&P 500. Signs of improvement in the
economy and the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing have
helped to drive the advance.
Heading into Tuesday, both the Dow and benchmark S&P 500
index had rallied for seven consecutive sessions, with the Dow
closing at another record high on Monday. The S&P is within
reach of its all-time closing high of 1,565.15, set on Oct. 9,
Tech shares, which have lagged the rally, pulled indexes
lower as heavyweights such as Apple and Google
Apple dropped 1.3 percent to $431.99. An analyst said the
company has a 25 percent chance of missing its quarterly revenue
forecast as iPhone sales slow.
Google fell 1.1 percent to $825.60, while the S&P tech
sector lost 0.8 percent.
"I think we're in a little bit of a regroup after a nice
week last week," said Kurt Brunner, portfolio manager at
Swarthmore Group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
After a light economic calendar the last couple of days,
investors will start to turn their attention to retail sales
data due on Wednesday to get a sense of how consumers are
faring, Brunner said. Sales are expected to have increased 0.5
percent in February.
Adding to the weakness, Jens Weidmann, head of Germany's
central bank and a member of the European Central Bank's
governing council, said the euro zone crisis was not over.
While it was a relatively small decline, it was the worst
day for the S&P since late February. 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 also been more muted in
recent days, even as stocks have ground higher.
Offsetting the decline, the healthcare sector rose
0.4 percent. Traditionally considered a defensive bet, the
sector has been one of the leaders of the rally so far this
year, accelerating by nearly 12 percent.
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 drop in tech shares brought the sector below the
overbought level after briefly crossing above it on Monday.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 15.12 points,
or 0.10 percent, to 14,432.17. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
slipped 5.18 points, or 0.33 percent, to 1,551.04. The
Nasdaq Composite Index lost 17.00 points, or 0.52
percent, to 3,235.87.
Merck shares gained 3.2 percent to $45.04 to help
curb declines on both the Dow and S&P after the pharmaceutical
company said an outside board had allowed it to continue a trial
assessing its Vytorin cholesterol drug.
Yum Brands Inc rose 1.6 percent to $68.92 after the
parent company of the KFC restaurant chain reported an
unexpected rise in February sales in China.