Stocks drop as debt default deadline nears

Day 14 of the government shutdown. Still no deal from lawmakers. The bottom line: Stocks fell in early trading Monday and the Dow Jones industrial average was down about 70 points as the deadline to increase the U.S. debt ceiling inched closer.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.5% and the Standard & Poor's 500 index shed 0.5% at the open. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 0.4%. Stocks are giving back some of the huge gains from late last week that came amid optimism a deal would get done.

"We don't have a deal yet in Washington," Don Rissmiller of Strategas Research Partners told clients. "Monday will likely be a test of whether the market can look through some of these near-term issues."

Washington has until Oct. 17 to find a resolution to the budget deadlock and extend the government's borrowing authority. If a deal doesn't get done, the nation will run low on cash and not be able to meet all of its financial obligations.

Nomura Securities dubs this week the "final countdown." Ed Yardeni, chief investment officer at Yardeni Research, calls it "another cliffhanger." Barclays sums up the market's mood this way: "Watching and waiting."

On Friday, markets struck a note of optimism over a potential deal. The Dow rose 0.7% to 15,237.11. The S&P 500 added 0.6% to 1,703.20. The Nasdaq gained 0.8% to 3,791.87.

Heading into Monday's trading session, all of the major U.S. stock indexes were sporting gains in October, despite the government shutdown. The benchmark S&P 500 is up 1.3% through the first 13 days of the shutdown.

Wall Street will focus all of its attention Monday on the budget negotiations in Washington, says Paul Mangus, head of equity research and strategy at Wells Fargo Private Bank.

Due to the Columbus Day holiday, the U.S. bond market is closed, no economic data releases are on the docket and not a single company in the S&P 500 will report earnings today.

"We don't know what will come out of Washington," says Mangus. "Everyone is hopeful that a resolution is forthcoming. Most investors realize the seriousness of the situation. And we hope the politicians are attuned to the seriousness of the situation as well."

Mangus stresses that market risks and volatility will likely rise as Thursday's deal deadline nears.

"The risks go up as the days go by without a deal," says Mangus.

Trading was muted in Asia on Monday, with markets in Tokyo and Hong Kong closed for holidays.

In Europe, Germany's DAX was down 0.1% and the CAC-40 in France was flat. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was actually trading higher, up 0.1%.

In energy markets, benchmark crude for November delivery down 51 cents at $101.51 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 99 cents to close at $102.02 on Friday.

Contributing: Associated Press


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