US STOCKS-Wall St drops as biotechs, semis sink Nasdaq
* Durable goods data unexpectedly weak
* Kraft, Kofax surge on M&A deals
* Indexes off: Dow 1.62 pct, S&P 1.46 pct, Nasdaq 2.37 pct (Adds Red Hat earnings)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, March 25 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks dropped on Wednesday as a slump in technology and biotechs sent the Nasdaq to its biggest decline in nearly a year while the S&P 500 fell through key support levels.
Semiconductors and biotech stocks weighed heavily on the Nasdaq, suffering their third straight session of declines after strong gains in the prior week.
An index of biotechnology shares was down 4.1 percent for the session, its biggest fall since Dec. 23. The index finished below its 14-day average for the first time since Feb. 11 and its 50-day moving average for the first time since Oct. 17.
The PHLX semiconductor index slumped 4.6 percent for its biggest percentage decline since Oct. 10 and also ended the session below both its 14-day and 50-day moving averages.
"Brutal day in the markets," said Peter Kenney, chief market strategist at Clearpool Group in New York. "Recent leadership represented the best opportunity to manage risk, meaning ring the register, and that certainly was an important driver of the kind of action we saw today." Continuación...