New York Report: Stocks fall as government standoff drags

US stocks fell yesterday, extending two weeks of losses, as a lack of progress in ending the partial US government shutdown or the debt-ceiling standoff kept investors nervous.

The S&P 500 ended near its lows of the session in a volatile day and dropped for its 10th time in the past 13 sessions. The CBOE Volatility index, a measure of investor anxiety, jumped 16 per cent to its highest level since June. The VIX has gained for three weeks, up 48 per cent over that period.

Much of the government has been closed since the start of the month, resulting in up to a million workers beingput on unpaid leave. Investors are also looking ahead to the upcoming debate over the debt ceiling, which could result in a default on US debt if not resolved.

In weekend comments, neither Republicans nor Democrats offered any sign of progress. The deadline to increase the ceiling is 17 October.

Nine of the S&P's 10 sectors were lower on the day, with groups tied to the pace of economic growth, including financials and materials, among the weakest of the day. The only sector that rose was telecoms, as it seen as a defensive play.

About 70 per cent of Nasdaq-listed shares closed lower while more than three quarters of New York Stock Exchange stocks ended down.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 136.34 points, or 0.90 per cent, at 14,936.24. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 14.38 points, or 0.85 per cent, at 1,676.12. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 37.38 points, or 0.98 per cent, at 3,770.38.