WALL Street stocks suffered their worst day since June yesterday, slumping in a broad decline as geopolitical uncertainty rose over a possible US-led military strike by the West against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
The S&P 500 closed under its 100-day moving average for the first time since 24 June, a sign of weak near-term momentum. The day’s fall extended recent declines on uncertainty over when the US Federal Reserve will start to slow its stimulative monetary policies.
Odds grew that a strike would occur against al-Assad’s forces for a chemical weapons attack against civilians as a number of nations and groups – including Britain, France, Canada and the Arab League – joined Washington in urging a firm response to Assad. Adding to the tension, Russia has supported Assad Syria’s civil war.
Investor nervousness was reflected in a jump of more than 20 per cent in the CBOE volatility index over the last two days. The uncertainty also lifted gold to a 15-week peak.
About 80 per cent of companies traded on both the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq fell, while all 10 S&P 500 sectors ended down.
Financials and materials were the weakest of the day, with both falling about 2.5 per cent. Both groups are closely tied to the pace of economic growth, as are energy shares. However, losses in that group were offset by a 2.8 per cent rise in crude oil.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 170.33 points, or 1.14 per cent, at 14,776.13. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 26.30 points, or 1.59 per cent, at 1,630.48. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 79.05 points, or 2.16 per cent, at 3,578.52.