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US stocks fell for a second day Wednesday after a run that saw new Dow and S&P records and a 15-year high for the Nasdaq. Dull data on private business hiring and service sector growth, and a so-so Beige Book economic survey from the Federal Reserve kept traders cautious, with eyes now on Friday's official jobs market report for February, and the European Central Bank meeting Thursday. At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 106.47 points (0.58 percent) at 18,096.90. The broad-based S&P 500 fell 9.25 (0.44 percent) to 2,098.53, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite dropped 12.76 (0.26 percent) to 4,967.14.
The US economy continued to grow at a fairly moderate rate in recent weeks despite bad winter weather in some regions, according to a Federal Reserve report released Wednesday. Fed contacts in the Boston area, pummeled by heavy snowfalls, "were fairly upbeat this period, notwithstanding the severe weather," the report said. The slide in crude-oil prices, which have fallen more than 50 percent since June, showed up in reduced production in several districts as energy companies scaled back investment.
Lawyers for the student on trial for the Boston marathon bombings bluntly admitted Wednesday that he was responsible for the attacks, but insisted he had been led astray by his brother. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could face the death penalty and -- while survivors recounted the carnage in graphic detail -- the defense sought to put the bulk of the blame on his slain older sibling. Prosecutors said Tsarnaev carried out the attacks to avenge the deaths of fellow Muslims overseas after learning how to build pressure-cooker bombs through an Al-Qaeda publication. The Kyrgyzstan-born US citizen faces the death penalty if convicted of the bombings which killed three people and wounded 264, on April 15, 2013.