Stocks move lower as S&P 500 heads for a big September loss

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Stocks moved lower on Wall Street Thursday as the major indexes headed for steep monthly losses.

The S&P 500 fell 0.4% as of 11:44 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 275 points, or 0.8%, to 34,117 and the Nasdaq edged up less than 0.1%.

A mix of companies that provide consumer goods and services weighed down the broader market. Roughly 80% of stocks in the benchmark S&P 500 fell. Some of those losses were tempered by gains from technology companies.

Investors have had their eyes on Washington, where Democrats and Republicans in Congress have been wrestling over extending the nation’s debt limit. Congress has moved to avert a crisis, and the Senate is poised to approve legislation to fund the federal government into early December.

The broader market has stumbled through September as investors try to get a clearer picture of the economy’s path amid inflation concerns and uncertainty about how COVID-19 will continue to impact industries and consumers.

The benchmark S&P 500 is down 4% in September and is headed for its worst monthly loss since March 2020. The index is also on pace for a 0.9% gain this quarter, which would be its smallest quarterly gain since the pandemic stunned the economy and financial markets.

Investors have been weighing a mixed bag of economic data that revealed that the highly contagious delta variant crimped consumer spending and the job market’s recovery.

The mixed signals continued Thursday as the Labor Department reported that unemployment applications rose for the third straight week and were higher than economists anticipated. The Commerce Department upgraded its estimate of economic growth during the second quarter to 6.7%, which was slightly better than economists expected.

Inflation concerns that had been weighing on the market earlier in the year returned in September as a wide range of companies issued more warnings about the impact of rising prices on their finances.

Bond yields were stable. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, a benchmark for many kinds of loans, remained at 1.54% from late Wednesday. It was as low as 1.32% just over a week ago.

Supply chain problems, higher raw materials costs and labor issues are taking a toll on multiple industries. Investors are still trying to gauge whether those issues are temporary and part of the economic recovery or could linger longer than expected. The upcoming round of corporate earnings reports could shed light on how companies are dealing with those problems.

Several companies made outsized gains and losses following corporate news on Thursday. Virgin Galactic’s stock soared 14.3% after it was cleared to fly again following a Federal Aviation Administration inquiry. CarMax slumped 11.3% after reporting disappointing fiscal second-quarter profits.