Closing Bell: Stocks Sink on Syria Worries, Downbeat Economic Data

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Stocks moved lower Friday, slumping on worries of a possible U.S.-led conflict in Syria and disappointing news on consumer spending and sentiment.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 30 points, or 0.2 percent, to 14,810, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) lost 5 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,633 and the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) ended the week down 30 points, or 0.8 percent, to 3,590.

Trading was volatile, with sharp swings between breakeven and losses as Secretary of State John Kerry said in televised remarks that Syria's government had used poison gas against civilians, and made the case for a limited military response.

President Barack Obama said later he hasn't made a final decision on the U.S. response to Syria's actions.

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Uncertainty has weighed on the market in recent weeks. Investors are still wondering whether the Federal Reserve will begin scaling back its bond-buying support for the economy in September. But the latest wild card is Syria. The possibility that the U.S. could strike Bashar al-Assad's regime has pushed oil prices generally upward. Still, U.S. benchmark oil dipped $1.15 to $107.65 a barrel in NYMEX trading.

In economic news, data pointing to weak individual spending and tame inflation painted a picture of a soft economy, which kept investors guessing about whether the Federal Reserve might soon start to cut back on its economic stimulus measures.

A report from the Commerce Department showed consumer spending rose only 0.1 percent and inflation was minimal in July, with the price index for consumer spending up 0.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the University of Michigan's final reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment slipped to 82.1 in August from 85.1 in July, but managed to top economist expectations for a final read of 80.5.

In company news, Omnivision Technologies (OVTI) tumbled 16 percent to $15.45 after the chipmaker forecast current-quarter adjusted profit largely below expectations as rising competition and a slowdown of U.S. smartphone sales led to an inventory pile-up.

More Stocks in the News:
  • General Electric (GE) reportedly plans to spin off the credit-card division of its GE Capital unit through an initial public offering. The IPO could come early next year, according to The Wall Street Journal. Overall, investors barely reacted: GE's stock rose 3 cents to $23.14.
  • Big Lots (BIG) gained 2.3 percent to $35.42. Early Friday, the operator of discount-stores reported lower quarterly earnings and U.S. sales, but its overall results still topped analyst estimates.
  • Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (KKD) plunged 15 percent. Late Thursday, the company posted a drop in quarterly profits, coming in below analyst estimates, even though sales climbed. Krispy Kreme's stock lost $3.51 to $19.72.
  • (CRM) soared more than 12 percent to $49.13 after the company raised its fiscal 2014 sales outlook after reporting better-than-expected revenue and earnings.
  • Apache (APA) climbed almost 9 percent to $85.68 after the oil and gas producer said it was selling a 33 percent stake in its Egypt oil and gas business for $3.1 billion to China's state-owned oil-giant, Sinopec Group.
Most markets will be closed Monday for the Labor Day holiday.

What to Watch Tuesday:
  • At 10 a.m. Eastern time, the Institute for Supply Management releases its manufacturing index for August, and the Commerce Department releases construction spending for July.
  • Dollar General (DG) reports quarterly corporate earnings.
-Compiled from staff and wire reports.
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