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Global markets fall as New Year holiday nears

NEW YORK - Lingering concerns about the political future of Greece pushed U.S. and global stock markets modestly lower Tuesday.

NEW YORK - Lingering concerns about the political future of Greece pushed U.S. and global stock markets modestly lower Tuesday.

Trading was slow, as most investors have closed their books for 2014. As has been the case several times this year, attention turned to Europe.

Greek stocks stabilized after a volatile day Monday, when the government was forced to call elections next month that could create more economic turmoil.

Investors worry that the elections might be won by the left-wing Syriza party, which opposes austerity measures associated with Greece's international financial-rescue deal.

Greece's stock market fell 0.4 percent Tuesday. Shares in Athens plunged as much as 11 percent Monday before recovering, closing down 4 percent.

"An election puts all sorts of doubt on the future of the bailout agreement," said Stan Shamu, a market strategist at IG Markets. "Potentially, markets had already priced this in, but I would still remain cautious around Greece."

U.S. stocks opened lower and stayed down. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 55.16 points, or 0.31 percent, to 17,983.07. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 10.22 points, or 0.49 percent, to 2,080.35. The Nasdaq composite fell 29.47 points, or 0.61 percent, to 4,777.44.

European markets also fell. France's CAC 40 lost 1.7 percent, Germany's DAX declined 1.2 percent, and Britain's FTSE 100 dropped 1.3 percent.

With one more trading day left, the S&P 500 is up 12.6 percent for the year, or 15.4 percent including dividends. That is almost double what strategists expected at the year's start.

"There were some negative surprises along the way, including the Ebola scare and increasing social tensions around the globe," Gary Thayer, chief macro strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors, wrote in a note to investors. "However, U.S. markets were able to weather these problems as [the U.S. economy] improved."

The dollar fell against the euro and yen Tuesday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell to 2.19 percent from 2.20 percent.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 51 cents to settle at $54.12 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, edged up two cents to close at $57.90 a barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline was little changed at $1.45 a gallon. Heating oil rose two cents to $1.87 a gallon. Natural gas fell 10.5 cents to close at $3.09 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $18.50 to $1,200.40 an ounce, silver rose 50 cents to $16.28 an ounce, and copper rose three cents to $2.85 a pound.