Aug. 27 - Summary: Activist investor Bill Ackman is preparing to dump his 38 million shares of J.C. Penney; Worries about Syria erase U.S. stock market gains; Signs of slower economy make cause for slower Fed. Conway G. Gittens reports.
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Stocks give up gains as geopolitics stop a three-day rally in its tracks.
Wall Street closes at its lows of the day with the broader market down less than half a percent.
Secretary of State John Kerry gave a forceful statement - telling the world, nations can not stand by and watch the use of chemical warfare in Syria.
SOUNDBITE: U.S SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY (ENGLISH) SAYING:
"Make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny."
His comments spooked investors who have been used to focusing on the global economy.
On the corporate front, J.C. Penny's says its largest shareholder - Bill Ackman - is preparing to sell his entire 39 million share position. Unwinding his 18 percent stake will result in him losing hundreds of millions of dollars on his investment, according to estimates. Ackman recently left the board after losing a public brawl over the struggling department store's leadership.
But it was the economy that was the focus for most of the session. Orders for durable goods plunged in July. Demand for large ticket items saw their biggest drop in a year, leading some economists to predict a stronger second-half may not be as strong as predicted. So that's the bad news - wait that's the good news - because that suggests to some the Federal Reserve can wait before slowing its $85-billion-a-month bond buying program.
Gold is getting a bounce on belief that Fed won't be in a rush to scale pace its purchases. The precious metal topped 14-00 an ounce for the first time since June.
In Europe, trading was thin with U.K. markets closed for a bank holiday.