Stocks fall on economy, budget fight concerns


NEW YORK — Concerns about the strength of the economy and the potential for a budget fight in Washington pushed down the stock market Monday.

The Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell for a third straight day.

Investors initially cheered the Federal Reserve’s decision last Wednesday to keep its huge stimulus program in place. But they’ve since focused on the central bank’s gloomier outlook for growth.

William Dudley, the President of the Fed’s New York Branch said Monday that while the economy was improving, “the headwinds” created by the financial crisis were only easing slowly.

“At first blush (the stimulus) looks positive,” said Kate Warne, an investment strategist at Edward Jones, a financial adviser. “But at second blush, it says conditions weren’t as strong as we were previously thinking. Markets are now responding to that.”

The Dow jumped 147 points last Wednesday to close at an all-time high. But the gain from that rally has been erased.

On Monday, the S&P 500 index dropped 8.07 points, or 0.5 percent, to close at 1,701.84. The index was fractionally lower than its level before the Fed’s decision last Wednesday.

The Dow fell 49.71 points, or 0.3 percent, to 15,401.38 The Nasdaq composite fell 9.44 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,765.29.

Financial stocks fell the most among the 10 industrial groups in the S&P 500 index. Investors sold financial stocks on concerns that their earnings would be hurt by lower trading volumes of bonds and foreign currencies.

Citigroup fell $1.64, or 3 percent, to $49.57 after the Financial Times reported that the bank had suffered a “significant decline” in trading revenues that would crimp its earnings.

Goldman Sachs, which began trading on the Dow Monday, also fell. The stock slipped $4.50, or 3 percent, to $165.20.

Utilities were the best performing industry group in the S&P 500 index, as investors sought less risky places to put their money.

The threat of a looming political showdown over the budget also weighed on investors.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to defund President Barack Obama’s health care law on Friday, a gesture that reminded Wall Street that the Republican-led House and the Democratic-controlled Senate are poised for a showdown over spending.

The debt ceiling must be raised by Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown, and a potential default on payments, including debt, later in the month.

“There seems to be a higher probability there will be more of a battle over that,” said Scott Wren a senior equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors. “That could inject some volatility into the market.”

Apple rose the most in the S&P 500 after the company said shopers snapped up 9 million of its newest iPhones following a rollout of the devices on Friday. The company’s stock climbed $23.23, or 5 percent, to $490.60.

Shares of the troubled smartphone maker Blackberry rose 1.1 percent to $8.82 after financial company Fairfax Financial Holdings offered to buy the company in a deal valued at $4.7 billion.

The company’s stock had been trading about 5 percent lower before the deal was announced. Blackberry plunged Friday after the company announced a loss of nearly $1 billion and layoffs of 4,500 workers.

Nike and Visa, along with Goldman, also began trading on the 30-member Dow on Monday. They replace Alcoa, Bank of America and Hewlett-Packard. The changes won’t disrupt the level of the Dow.

The blue-chip index is up 17.5 percent this year, while the S&P 500 is up 19 percent. If the S&P 500 closed the year at its current level, it would log its best gain since 2009, when it rose 23 percent.

In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.70 from 2.74 percent late Friday.

In commodities trading, the price of oil fell $1.16, or 1.1 percent, to $103.59 a barrel. The price of gold fell $5.50, or 0.4 percent, to $1,327 an ounce.

The dollar rose against the euro and fell against the Japanese yen.