Wall Street Slumps as Fiscal Deadlines Loom


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U.S. stock markets took a hit on Friday, and slumped for the week, as traders fretted about a battle in Congress over averting a government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling.

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Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 70 points, or 0.46%, to 15258, the S&P 500 dipped 6.9 points, or 0.41%, to 1692 and the Nasdaq Composite slipped 5.8 points, or 0.15%, to 3782.

For the week, the Dow dipped 1.2%, the S&P 500 fell 1.1% and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.18%.

It's deja vu all over again.

America is hurtling toward a potential government shutdown, and much worse, a possible default on U.S. debt. Wall Street had managed to shake the concerns off, but as the deadlines, October 1 and October 17, respectively, grow nearer, traders are getting anxious.

The Senate passed a House-backed bill to keep the government's lights on. However, the Senate removed language that would have defunded ObamaCare. It now moves to the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner is struggling to control his caucus, with the far right of the GOP pushing back on compromises.

"His plan to keep the government open as the new fiscal year starts on October 1 has been rejected by hard-liners, and as Friday begins there is no clear path to avoid a shut-down -- which makes us even more nervous about the looming fight over the debt ceiling," Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at Potomac Research Group, a political consultancy, wrote in a letter to clients.

With only a handful of economic reports on tap, the "focus will remain on Washington and the looming congressional votes to avoid a government shut-down," Barclays told its clients.

The Commerce Department said consumer spending increased 0.3% in August, matching economists’ expectations. Personal income rose 0.4% for the month, also meeting expectations, and representing the largest increase since February.

A reading on consumer sentiment from Reuters and the University of Michigan rose to 77.5 in late September, from 76.8 earlier in the month. Economists expected a reading of 78.

Consumers have been struggling through stodgy wage growth and higher payroll taxes. As the key holiday shopping season looms large, analysts are paying particularly close attention to data on that front.

Meanwhile, in corporate news, Nike (NYSE:NKE), part of the latest class of Dow components, revealed better-than-expected quarterly results. BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) posted a hefty quarterly loss as revenues plummeted.

In commodities, U.S. crude oil futures dipped 33 cents, or 0.32%, to $102.69 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline fell 0.31% to $2.68 a gallon. Gold rallied $15.90, or 1.2%, to $1,340 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.29% to 2915, the English FTSE 100 slumped 0.85% to 6509 and the German DAX slipped 0.27% to 8640.

The Japanese Nikkei 225 slid 0.26% to 14760 and the Chinese Hang Seng tilted higher by 0.35% to 23207.

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