By Kate Gibson
NEW YORK: Stocks dropped on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 index recording its longest decline since December, as a possible federal government shutdown overrode better-than-forecast economic reports.
“It’s been a very good year for the stock market, but people are pausing to worry about what is going on in Washington. One of the few things you can say about the stock market is it hates uncertainty,” said David Kelly, chief market strategist at JPMorgan Funds.
Down for a fifth session, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 61.33 points, or 0.4 percent, at 15,273.26.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 also fell for a fifth session, closing down 4.65 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,692.77. The loss streak is the longest since Dec. 28, a time that had Wall Street fretting as politicians argued over combined spending cuts and tax increases dubbed the “fiscal cliff.” The index is up nearly 19 percent for the year.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. paced blue-chip losses, its shares off 1.5 percent after Bloomberg News reported the discount retailer was reducing orders with suppliers this quarter and next to deal with climbing inventories. A Wal-Mart spokesperson told MarketWatch the report is “completely false.”
JPMorgan Chase & Co. led advancers on the Dow, its shares up 2.7 percent, after the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal reported the bank and government officials were in discussions to settle federal and state mortgage investigations.
J.C. Penney Co. fell to a nearly 13-year low, leading S&P 500 losses with a 15 percent drop, after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. projected sales would improve at a slower-than-anticipated pace and raised questions about liquidity.
The Nasdaq composite lost 7.16 points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,761.10.
The Treasury market continues to benefit from the risk-taking confusion, with benchmark yields down to their lowest level since the middle of August, while the dollar was near its weakest point against other global currencies since February, Peter Boockvar, chief market strategist at the Lindsey Group, noted in emailed commentary.
Energy costs fell for a fifth session, with crude-oil futures for November delivery falling 47 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $102.66 a barrel.
Gold rose $19.90, or 1.5 percent, to $1,336.20 an ounce.