With Fed rate decision looming, stocks head lower

Author: the associated press

NEW YORK (AP) – More signs of slowing economic growth in China weighed on companies that produce raw materials on Monday, pulling the stock market to a slight loss. Trading was light as investors looked ahead to a much-anticipated Federal Reserve meeting later this week.

Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for the Commonwealth Financial Network, said the market was likely to drift until the Fed wraps up its meeting on Thursday. “Everybody is waiting to see what happens when and if the Fed raises rates.”

Until recently, many in the markets thought that the Fed would raise its benchmark interest rate at the end of its two-day meeting on Thursday. Now, opinions are split. Some analysts suggest China’s slower economy and turbulence in financial markets might prompt the Fed to postpone its first rate increase since 2006. But the Fed’s deputy chairman, Stanley Fischer, recently said he saw a “pretty strong case” for raising rates.

Major U.S. indexes opened higher, then quickly changed course. They sank slowly through the rest of the morning and remained lower through the remainder of the day. Miners and other materials companies had some of the biggest losses. Metals companies Alcoa and Nucor dropped 3 percent, while Freeport-McMoRan lost 2 percent.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 8.02 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 1,953.03.

The Dow Jones industrial average gave up 62.13 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,370.96, and the Nasdaq composite fell 16.58 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,805.76.

Apple reported strong demand for its latest iPhones, driving its stock up. The tech giant said that initial sales of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are on track to beat the tally from last year, when it sold a record 10 million large-screen iPhones during the first weekend. Apple climbed $1.10, or 1 percent, to $115.31.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX closed with a gain of 0.1 percent while France’s CAC-40 lost 0.7 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares slipped 0.5 percent.

Two economic reports out Sunday rekindled concerns over China’s economic slowdown. Factory output and investment grew at a slower pace than forecast. China’s main stock index, the Shanghai Composite, took another hard fall on Monday, dropping 2.7 percent

Elsewhere, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.3 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 lost 1.6 percent, and South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.5 percent.

Back in the U.S., Raptor Pharmaceuticals lost more than a third of its market value after the drug developer said it may scrap development of a liver disease treatment because it failed to pass a key test. The company’s stock plunged $4.51, or 37 percent, to $7.52.

Prices for U.S. government bonds barely moved. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was little changed at 2.18 percent.

In commodities markets, industrial metals finished lower while precious metals ended mixed. Gold gained $4.40 to settle at $1,107.70 an ounce, and silver sank 14 cents to $14.36 an ounce. Copper dropped 5 cents to $2.41 a pound.

The price of oil fell on weakness in the gasoline market brought on by high fuel supplies and the end of the summer driving season. U.S. crude fell 63 cents to close at $44 a barrel in New York. Brent Crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.77 to close at $46.37 a barrel in London.

In other futures trading in New York:

– Wholesale gasoline fell 6.6 cents to close at $1.304 a gallon.

– Heating oil fell 4.6 cents to close at $1.504 a gallon.

– Natural gas rose 6.5 cents to close at $2.758 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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