Stocks Head Lower Following Drops Overseas

NEW YORK (AP) -

Concerns over high stock prices and global politics continued to plague markets Monday as major stock indexes ended with slight losses in another day of choppy trading. Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, a major world financial center, added to the host of political concerns on investors’ minds.

It could have been worse. The Dow Jones industrial average sank 178 points in the opening minutes, a sudden drop of 1 percent, but then it climbed back.

The Dow lost 41.93 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,071.22. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 5.05 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,977.80. The Nasdaq composite slipped 6.34 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,505.85.

Traders have pushed the stock market lower despite a string of encouraging economic news. The latest came from the Commerce Department, which reported on Monday that consumer spending rose 0.5 percent in August from the previous month. Auto sales made up about half of the increase. It was further evidence that the economy is on solid footing heading into the end of the year.

The situation in Hong Kong weighed on its main stock index, the Hang Seng, which closed with a loss of 1.9 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 0.5 percent, and China’s Shanghai Composite added 0.4 percent.

Major markets in Europe sank. France’s CAC-40 fell 0.8 percent, while Germany’s DAX fell 0.7 percent. The FTSE 100 of leading British companies was flat.

Prices for U.S. government bonds rose, sending yields lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.48 percent from 2.53 percent late Friday.

In commodities trading, the price of gold edged up $3.40 to settle at $1,218.80 an ounce, silver rose three cents to $17.57 an ounce and copper rose two cents to $3.06 a pound.

The price of oil rose amid signs that U.S. refineries are demanding more crude oil to boost output of gasoline. Benchmark U.S. oil gained $1.03 to $94.57 a barrel. Gasoline futures increased 3.44 cents to $2.696 a gallon.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose 20 cents to $97.20 a barrel in London.

In other energy futures trading on NYMEX, heating oil was flat at $2.70 a gallon and natural gas rose 12.5 cents to $4.154 per 1,000 cubic feet.