U.S. stocks retreated sharply ahead of the beginning of first-quarter earnings season even as fresh worries on European debt crisis dented the sentiment.
S&P 500 Index lost 1.71 percent to finish at 1,358.59. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1.65 percent to end at 12,715.93. The Nasdaq Composite Index closed at 2,991.22, down 1.83 percent.
On the economic front, wholesale inventories at the end of February rose more than forecast. A report from the Commerce Department showed that inventories advanced 0.9 percent from the previous month, while economists expected a 0.5 percent rise.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: (AA, SVU, BBY, VPHM, OPTR, PVR, XRIT)
In corporate news, Alcoa Inc. (NYSE:AA) jumped 4.19 percent to $9.70 in extended trading after the aluminum maker posted a surprise quarterly profit. On an adjusted basis, the company earned 10 cents a share on sales of $6.0 billion. Analysts' expected a loss of 4 cents a share on sales of $5.8 billion for the first quarter. Alcoa still expects a global aluminum supply deficit in 2012 and reaffirmed its forecast that global aluminum demand would grow 7 percent in 2012.
Supervalu Inc. (NYSE:SVU) surged 15 percent after the grocery retailer guided 2013 EPS above Wall Street projections. It sees fiscal 2013 EPS in the range of $1.27 to $1.42, while analysts expect $1.19 a share.
Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE:BBY) reversed earlier gains to close 5.8 percent lower. The retailer of consumer electronics said Brian Dunn has resigned as chief executive officer and it named director Mike Mikan as the interim CEO.
X-Rite Inc. (Nasdaq:XRIT) soared 38.50 percent after the provider of color management systems agreed to be bought by Danaher Corp. (NYSE: DHR) for $5.55 per share, a 39 percent premium to X-Rite's closing share price of $4.00 on Monday.
Viropharma Inc. (Nasdaq:VPHM) plunged 21.5 percent after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration indicated that it is approving three generic version of ViroPharma's vancomycin capsules. In addition, the company has received a notification that the Federal Trade Commission is conducting an investigation into whether the company has engaged in unfair methods of competition with respect to Vancocin.
Optimer Pharmaceuticals Inc.