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After year of stock records, a weak start to 2014

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Investors may already feel a little nostalgic for 2013.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index began the New Year with its worst performance in three weeks as energy and technology companies pulled down the stock market.

Stocks started the year at lofty heights after a combination of rising company earnings and economic stimulus from the Federal Reserve pushed major indexes to record levels in 2013. The S&P 500 surged almost 30 percent, its best year since 1997, and the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 26.5 percent, the most since 1995.

"The market was grossly overbought and needed to pull back," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. "But fundamentally everything is looking pretty good."

The S&P 500 dropped 16.38 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,831.98, its worst start to a year's trading since Jan. 2, 2008, when the index slumped 1.4 percent.

The Dow fell 135.31 points, or 0.8 percent, to 16,441.35. The NASDAQ composite slid 33.52 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,143.07.

Energy stocks fell as the price of oil dropped $2.98, or 3 percent, to $95.44 a barrel. Oil slumped after reports that an end to protests at a major Libyan oil field could return 300,000 barrels of daily production to the global market.

Technology stocks lost ground after analysts published gloomy notes on companies in the sector. Analog Devices lost $1.65, or 3.2 percent, to $49.28 after analysts at Goldman Sachs advised its clients to sell the chipmaker's stock, saying it's overvalued compared to its peers.

Apple fell $7.89, or 1.4 percent, to $553.13, after Wells Fargo cut its outlook on the stock to "market perform" from "outperform," saying profit margins may come under pressure later this year.

Some analysts said investors shouldn't read too much into the lackluster start to the year because trading volumes were below normal as the holiday season wound down with many market participants still away from their desks.

"I don't think we can really start counting till Monday," said Dan Morris, Global Investment Strategist at TIAA-CREF. "A lot of people are still on holiday."

Investors will be hoping that the stock market steadies because its performance in January often gives an indication of how the rest of the year might turn out. The January barometer has proven accurate almost 90 percent of years since 1950, according to the Stock Trader's Almanac.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed to 2.99 percent from 2.97 percent after some encouraging reports on the economy. The yield on the note, which rises when investors sell bonds, is close to its highest since July 2011.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits last week fell by 2,000, extending a recovery in the job market, and U.S. manufacturing grew at a healthy pace in December as factories stepped up hiring and received more orders.

Among other stocks making big moves, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia climbed 37 cents, or 8.8 percent, to $4.56 after it announced an end to its bitter standoff with Macy's over a breach-of-contract lawsuit involving J.C. Penney.

Stewart's company and Penney signed a merchandising deal in December 2011. That prompted Macy's to sue both companies for violating its exclusive agreement with Martha Stewart. Terms of the settlement are not being released. Macy's fell 1 cent to $53.39.

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  1. A Tilted Kilt at a water park themed hotel? Who planned that one? I guess the Dad's need something to do while the kids are on the water slides.

  2. Don't come down on the fair for offering drinks. This is a craft and certainly one that belongs in agriculture due to ingredients. And for those worrying about how much you can drink. I'm sure it's more to do with liability than anything else. They don't want people suing for being over served. If you want a buzz, do a little pre-drinking before you go.

  3. I don't drink but go into this "controlled area" so my friend can drink. They have their 3 drink limit and then I give my friend my 3 drink limit. How is the fair going to control this very likely situation????

  4. I feel the conditions of the alcohol sales are a bit heavy handed, but you need to realize this is the first year in quite some time that beer & wine will be sold at the fair. They're starting off slowly to get a gauge on how it will perform this year - I would assume if everything goes fine that they relax some of the limits in the next year or couple of years. That said, I think requiring the consumption of alcohol to only occur in the beer tent is a bit much. That is going to be an awkward situation for those with minors - "Honey, I'm getting a beer... Ok, sure go ahead... Alright see you in just a min- half an hour."

  5. This might be an effort on the part of the State Fair Board to manage the risk until they get a better feel for it. However, the blanket notion that alcohol should not be served at "family oriented" events is perhaps an oversimplification. and not too realistic. For 15 years, I was a volunteer at the Indianapolis Air Show, which was as family oriented an event as it gets. We sold beer donated by Monarch Beverage Company and served by licensed and trained employees of United Package Liquors who were unpaid volunteers. And where did that money go? To central Indiana children's charities, including Riley Hospital for Children! It's all about managing the risk.

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