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Dow takes a tumble after dour earnings, data

Wall Street kicked off trading in the wake of an East Coast snowstorm, but the results weren’t pretty.

U.S. stocks fell dramatically immediately following the opening bell Tuesday morning after a series of big U.S. companies issued dour earnings reports, and a drop in durable goods orders shook investors’ confidence in the economic outlook for 2015.

The Dow Jones industrial average plummeted at the open, and was down 291 points at the close having tumbled 390 points earlier in the session. One week after a market surge nearly wiped out all of market’s losses for the year, the blue-chip index is now some 400 points below where it started 2015.

The Nasdaq composite was down 2% at the close, while the S&P 500 was off just over 1%. All three major U.S. indices were basically flat on Monday.

Orders for durable goods — including anything from home appliances to commercial aircraft — in the U.S. dropped 3.4% in December after the fell more than 2% the previous month, according to new data from the Commerce Department.

Meanwhile, a diverse set of companies that includes Microsoft (MSFT), Procter & Gamble (PG) and Caterpillar (CAT) saw their share prices drop Tuesday morning as a result of weak quarterly earnings reports.

Microsoft took an especially hard hit, falling nearly 10% in early trading after analysts downgraded the company’s stock due to a decline in earnings in its most recent quarter. Caterpillar’s stock fell more than 7% after the company posted a disappointing forecast for 2015 due to the ongoing decline in prices of commodities such as oil and copper.

Tuesday’s U.S. sell-off came on the heels of a decline for European stocks, which had improved recently on the European Central Bank’s new stimulus measures before falling again Tuesday due to concerns over political upheaval in Greece. London’s FTSE 100 dropped 0.6% during the day while Germany’s DAX fell 1.6%.