NEW YORK - U.S. stocks fell, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index headed for its worst month since May 2012, as investors weighed a smaller-than-estimated gain in consumer spending and the prospects for a strike against Syria.
Hewlett-Packard Co. dropped 1.2 percent after a report predicted global personal-computer shipments will slide more than previously forecast. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. tumbled 14 percent after reporting second-quarter earnings that trailed analysts’ estimates as costs increased. Salesforce.com Inc. jumped 13 percent as the provider of customer-management software announced forecasts that beat projections.
The S&P 500 fell 0.4 percent to 1,632.20 at 10:54 a.m. in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 49.69 points, or 0.3 percent, to 14,791.26. Trading in S&P 500 stocks was 28 percent below the 30-day average at this time of day.
“People don’t want to go into the weekend hugely exposed up or down, especially with this fear of Syria overhanging the market,” Beth Lilly, a Minneapolis-based portfolio manager with Gabelli Funds, which oversees $40 billion, said in a phone interview. “There’s a lot of concern of if we get involved in a bombing, how protracted will our involvement be. The market does not like uncertainty, and there’s a lot of uncertainty as it relates to Syria.”
The S&P 500 has fallen 3.2 percent in August amid concern the Federal Reserve will reduce its bond purchases and the United States may take military action against Syria. Trading has averaged about 5.5 billion shares a day, on track for the second-slowest month in at least five years. U.S. exchanges are closed Monday for the Labor Day holiday.
The Obama administration plans to release Friday a declassified report outlining an intelligence analysis of evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in an attack, an administration official said.
Publication of the assessment follows Thursday night’s vote in the U.K.’s House of Commons rejecting British participation in a military strike against Syria. France has signaled it might act as the main U.S. ally in a response.
Growing speculation the Federal Reserve will reduce its monthly bond buying has contributed to the S&P 500’s decline from a record on Aug. 2. Minutes of the central bank’s July meeting released Aug. 21 showed policy makers supported stimulus cuts this year if the economy improves. The officials next meet Sept. 17-18.
Data today showed consumer spending in the U.S. rose less than forecast in July, indicating further job gains are needed to sustain household purchases. The measure, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, rose 0.1 percent after a revised 0.6 percent increase the prior month that was larger than previously estimated. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 0.3 percent rise.