A late slide erases stock market gains

NEW YORK – Just how nervous are investors about Greece? All it took to derail a day of stock market gains was a headline saying that the country was preparing to leave the euro, an outcome many analysts expect to happen eventually.

Major indexes were flying high for most of the day after the National Association of Realtors reported that home prices surged 10 percent over the last year, the biggest gain in six years.

Then, with less than an hour of trading left, news hit that Greece’s former prime minister said the country was considering dropping the euro. Investors have been anticipating that Greece could make a messy exit from the euro this year, but the prospect that it could be imminent gave the market a jolt.

A 50-point gain in the Dow Jones industrial average turned into a 57-point loss in 45 minutes. A last-minute recovery left the Dow down just 1.67 points at 12,502.81.

Facebook’s stock kept sliding, dropping 9 percent to $31. The social-networking company has fizzled since its long-awaited initial public offering last week at $38. Facebook sank 11 percent on Monday, even as the rest of the stock market rallied.

The Realtor group said sales of previously occupied homes rose 3.4 percent last month to an annual rate of 4.62 million, more than economists had predicted.

The median price jumped to $177,400, the biggest gain since January 2006, before the real estate bubble popped.

“Existing home sales is one of the most important indicators for the housing market,” said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at the brokerage BTIG. “The improvement in today’s data, while not spectacular, is nonetheless encouraging.”

In other trading, the Nasdaq composite dropped 8.13 points to 2,839.08. The Standard & Poor’s 500 inched up 0.64 of a point to 1,316.63. It was up 12 points earlier in the day.