Late Selling Leaves Stocks Down for Third Straight Month 

NEW YORK (AP) -

Late-day selling sent U.S. stocks to a loss Monday and erased nearly all of the market’s gains for the month. Weak earnings for drug companies pushed health care stocks lower, and energy shares fell as natural gas plunged.

Investors lost enthusiasm for stocks after two straight weekly gains. Health care stocks fell furthest as drugmakers Endo International, Mylan and Mallinckrodt all slumped. Oil prices rose, but natural gas hit a 17-year low. Banks lost ground, partly because investors are worried about potential losses on loans to energy companies.

The& Dow& Jones industrial average fell 123.47 points, or 0.7 percent, to 16,516.50. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 15.82 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,932.23. The Nasdaq composite index fell 32.52 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,557.95.

Monday’s loss pushed the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq to a loss for February, their third monthly loss in a row. The& Dow& eked out a gain of 0.3 percent for its first positive month since November.

With stocks on shaky ground, precious metals prices improved. The price of gold has climbed nearly 11 percent this month. Gold is seen as a safe investment when the market gets rough, and Steven Dunn, the head of ETF Securities’ U.S. division, said investors are now more worried about the global markets than they have been in several years.

The price of gold rose 1 percent Monday to $1,234.40 an ounce. Over the last two weeks gold has traded near it highest price in a year.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 97 cents, or 3 percent, to $33.75 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the global benchmark, gained 87 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $35.97 a barrel in London.

Natural gas prices skidded 4 percent to $1.71 per 1,000 cubic feet, its lowest level since March of 1999. In a research note, Commodity Weather Group said it expects a “super warm pattern” to start in about a week. That will lead to less demand for heat as the winter comes to a close.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $1.05 a gallon and heating oil rose 2 cents to $1.08 a gallon.

Policymakers at a weekend meeting of the Group of 20 rich and developing countries promised to use “all tools” at their disposal to bolster weak global growth, but they didn’t announce any specific moves.

Global stocks were mixed.

Germany’s DAX slipped 0.2 percent, while the FTSE 100 index of British shares remained unchanged. The CAC-40 in France rose 0.9 percent. The yen’s strength weighed on Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225, which fell 1 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 2.9 percent after the yuan’s decline.

Stock markets in Europe were helped somewhat by news that inflation across the eurozone turned negative in February as consumer prices fell. The euro fell because traders expect further monetary stimulus from the European Central Bank at its meeting on March 10.

In other metals trading, silver prices edged up 21 cents to $14.90 an ounce. Copper rose 1 cent to $2.13 a pound.

Bond prices rose and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 1.75 percent from 1.76 percent. The euro fell to $1.0875 from $1.0928 and the dollar fell to 112.95 yen from 113.90 yen.