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U.S. stocks plunge into red territory after volatile trading

U.S. stocks slashed big early gains to turn lower Tuesday despite upbeat data, extending losses for a third straight day.

Buoyed by the good start of the fourth-quarter earnings season, the market surged in the morning session, with the Dow soaring as much as 282 points, before the three benchmark indices dived into negative territory in the afternoon trading and ended mildly lower, as falling oil prices continued to haunt the market.

At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 27.16 points, or 0.15 percent, to 17,613.68. The S&P 500 slipped 5.23 points, or 0.26 percent, to 2,023.03. The Nasdaq Composite Index edged down 3.21 points, or 0.07 percent, to 4,661.50.

Aluminum giant Alcoa Inc. released strong quarterly results after Monday’s closing bell to unofficially kick off the earnings season.

Alcoa said it swung to profit in the fourth quarter of last year as transformation strengthened profitability. The company posted adjusted earnings of 33 cents per share for the past quarter, as revenue jumped 14 percent from a year ago to 6.4 billion U.S. dollars, topping market estimates.

Some major U.S. banks, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co, Wells Fargo & Co. and Citigroup Inc., will also release their quarterly results this week.

According to Thomson Reuters, the fourth-quarter earnings of S& P 500 companies are expected to grow 3.7 percent year on year.

Economic data came in positive. The National Federation of Independent Business said Tuesday that U.S. small business optimism perked up in December, with the Small Business Optimism Index rising 2.3 points to 100.4, the best reading since October 2006.

U.S. job openings registered 4.97 million in November, higher than October’s reading of 4.83 million, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

The continued slide in oil prices weighed on investor sentiment, with Brent crude and U.S. crude both dipping to near six-year lows Tuesday.

Oil prices lost amid speculation that U.S. stockpiles last week would increase.

The Energy Information Administration is scheduled to release a report unveiling the U.S. crude inventories in the week ending Jan. 9.

Light, sweet crude for February delivery lost 18 cents to settle at 45.89 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude for February delivery decreased 84 cents to close at 46.59 dollars a barrel.

U.S. equities had witnessed big swings recently, as investors were growing restless on plunging oil prices which had sunk more than 50 percent from its recent peak in June 2014, posing uncertainties on the global economy.

The CBOE Volatility Index, a gauge of fear in the market, rose 4.9 percent to end at 20.56 on Tuesday.

In other markets, the U.S. dollar rose against most major currencies as economic data from the country came out positive.

In late New York trading, the euro moved down to 1.1764 dollars from 1.1840 dollars in the previous session. The greenback bought 117.73 Japanese yen, lower than 118.58 yen of the previous session.

Gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange rose for a third session in a row, though equities recovery and a stronger dollar capped gains.

The most active gold contract for February delivery gained 1.6 dollars, or 0.13 percent, to settle at 1,234.4 dollars per ounce.

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