* Dollar index at lowest since February
* U.S. equity market still on track for positive September
* Brent hovers at $108 a barrel on worries of U.S. shutdown
* Bond prices gain in safe-haven bid
By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK, Sept 30 Global stock markets fell and
the dollar dropped against major currencies on Monday as a
partial U.S. government shutdown loomed, with passage of an 11th
hour stop-gap spending bill seen as unlikely.
The Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate was poised to reject a
Republican funding measure that would delay "Obamacare" health
reforms. A simple majority vote was scheduled for shortly after
2 p.m. that would strip Republican amendments and send a "clean"
funding bill back to the House of Representatives.
House Speaker John Boehner showed no sign of backing down
from Republican insistence on linking a funding bill to a delay
in President Barack Obama's signature health-care law.
If a funding deal was reached soon markets might recover,
but a prolonged shutdown could have a major impact on the
economy and consumer confidence. As many as 1 million U.S.
federal employees could face unpaid furloughs or payless
"The size of the sell-off is logical given the stakes," said
Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at the ConvergEx Group
in New York.
The dollar last traded 0.45 percent lower against a basket
of six major currencies at 80.163 and was near break-even
against the yen, up 0.02 percent at 98.26 yen. The euro
rose 0.12 percent at $1.3537.
MSCI's all-country equity stock index was
down 0.73 percent, while the broad FTSEurofirst 300 index
of regional shares closed down a provisional 0.6
percent at 1,247.14.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 109.79
points, or 0.72 percent, at 15,148.45. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was down 8.87 points, or 0.52 percent, at 1,682.88.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 9.77 points, or 0.26
percent, at 3,771.83.
Defense names declined, as a prolonged government shutdown
would most likely diminish the amount of new contracts being
granted. Raytheon Co fell 1.1 percent to $77.33, and
Lockheed Martin Corp fell 1.2 percent to $127.64, while
Boeing Co slipped 2.3 percent to $117.20.
The PHLX defense sector was off 0.83 percent.
Wall Street has weathered similar incidents in the past.
During a shutdown from Dec. 15, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996, the S&P
500 added 0.1 percent. During the Nov. 13-19, 1995, shutdown,
the benchmark index rose 1.3 percent, according to data by Jason
Goepfert, president of SentimenTrader.com.
That pattern of gains may not hold this time, given that
economic growth continues to be weak. Wall Street may also be
ripe for a sell-off, with the S&P near an all-time high after
having escaped any sustained pullback so far this year.
In the latest economic data, the Chicago Purchasing Managers
index rose more than expected in September, climbing to a
reading of 55.7 from 53 the previous month. Analysts were
expecting a reading of 54.
Fears of a U.S. government shutdown supported safe-haven
demand for bonds, sending benchmark yields to their lowest in
U.S. government debt was on track to post its first monthly
gain since April and to eke out its first quarterly rise since a
year ago, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
"The best way to say what the market is doing right now is
that it's pricing in a partial government shutdown," said John
Herrmann, director of interest rates strategy at Mitsubishi UFJ
Securities in New York.
U.S. Treasuries prices fell, with the benchmark 10-year U.S.
Treasury bond off 3/32 in price to yield 2.6372
Brent crude oil fell, heading for its first monthly decline
since May, as the looming U.S. government shutdown clouded the
outlook for demand, while tensions over Iran continued to ease.
Brent was down 83 cents to $107.80 a barrel. U.S.
crude was down $1.14 at $101.73 a barrel.