NEW YORK — Stocks are closing lower. The slight drop today ended a three-day rally that had lifted the Dow Jones industrial average above 12,000 for the first time since an earthquake hit Japan more than a week ago.

The Dow dipped 18 points to close at 12,019. The broader S&P 500 index fell 5, or 0.4 percent, to 1,294. The Nasdaq composite index fell 8, or 0.3 percent, to 2,684.

Crude oil prices, a major source of concern since mid-February, rose $1.88 to settle at $104.97 per barrel.

A day with such little change for stocks has been rare so far in March. The Dow has moved up or down by at least 100 points in four of the last five trading days, driven by developments in Japan’s nuclear crisis.