Stock markets cool down after three sessions of gains

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks fell Tuesday, with the S&P 500 Index retreating after a three-session advance that had the index near a four-year high.

The market’s decline isn’t surprising, given “we had such an incredible run-up and were moving toward historic highs,” said Carol Pepper of Pepper International, an investment-advisory firm in New York.

After falling nearly 116 points, the Dow Jones industrial average closed down 68.94 points, or 0.5 percent, at 13,170.19, with heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. weighing the most, off 2.6 percent. Walt Disney Co. shares were down 0.5 percent after the entertainment conglomerate said it expects science-fiction film “John Carter” to lose about $200 million.

Outside the blue-chip benchmark, shares of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. rose 7.2 percent ahead of the company’s release of “The Hunger Games” movie.

Bank of America Corp. led gains that included just eight of the Dow’s 30 components. Its shares rose 2.9 percent.The S&P 500 declined 4.23 points, or 0.3 percent, at 1,405.52. On Monday it had closed at its highest since May 2008 and also notched a new 52-week high.

The Nasdaq composite index shed 4.17 points, or 0.1 percent, to 3,074.15, outperforming the Dow and S&P 500.

 

Supreme Court throws out lab’s request for patents

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court unanimously tossed out medical patent claims for Prometheus Laboratories on Tuesday for a test that could help doctors set drug doses for autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease, a decision that could affect the burgeoning field of personalized medicine.

The justices unanimously agreed that the patents held by the company – owned by Switzerland-based Nestle – were invalid because they were based on the laws of nature, which are unpatentable.

The patent in question covers a blood test that helps doctors determine the proper dosage for a drug, thiopurine, to treat gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal autoimmune illnesses. The patent covers methods of administering thiopurine to a patient and then determining the levels of the drug or the drug’s metabolites – what’s left after it breaks down in the body – in the patient’s red blood cells. That observation is used to adjust the amount of medicine needed for that patient.

 

Oil prices threaten billions in losses for global aviation

GENEVA — The global aviation industry could run up losses of more than $5 billion this year if oil prices spike by more than anticipated in light of the tensions building up over Iran’s nuclear program, the industry’s trade group said Tuesday.

The International Air Transport Association, or IATA, says it now expects its earnings to decline to $3 billion in 2012. That’s down from December’s forecast of $3.5 billion, based on an expectation that oil prices will average $115 a barrel. At present, the benchmark New York rate is trading at nine-month highs around $107 a barrel.

Tony Tyler, IATA’s chief executive, said the industry’s diminished profit forecast for 2012 could turn into losses of more than $5 billion if oil prices spike to $150 a barrel due to Western tensions with Iran.