Stocks in the U.S. and other global markets were falling for a fourth day Tuesday as jittery investors awaited the Federal Reserve’s decision on interest rates and worried about Britain’s vote on whether to leave the European Union.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 67 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,664 as of 3:20 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost nine points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,072 and the Nasdaq composite fell nine points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,839.
BONDS: U.S. government bond yields remained at their lowest levels since 2012, as investors sought safety ahead of the Fed meeting and the vote in Britain. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was 1.62 percent, up slightly from a day earlier.
In Europe, benchmark German government bond yields fell below zero percent for the first time, a signal that skittish investors are willing to pay to park their money in investments they consider super-safe.
FED WATCH: The central bank’s two-day meeting started Tuesday, with a decision on interest rates to be announced Wednesday. The Fed had been expected to raise interest rates, but following some weak economic data, including the most recent monthly jobs report, it now appears likely to wait.
BREXIT: Stocks are also under pressure from uncertainty about whether British voters will choose to leave the European Union in a June 23 referendum. Polls show the vote could go either way and investors are starting to worry about the consequences.
A British exit from the EU, known informally as Brexit, would likely hurt the British economy most and destabilize the rest of Europe. The repercussions, however, are not clear and investors are reacting to the general uncertainty over the situation.
“Investors are ‘Brexit’ proofing their portfolios right now,” said Anastasia Amoroso, a global markets strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.
Amoroso said that if the U.K. were to leave the EU, both the British and European Central Banks would likely lower interest rates to stabilize the continent’s economy, which would put pressure on bonds.
“Expect drastic volatility around this vote, and if it does in fact happen look for more countries to leave the EU as well,” said Tom di Galoma, a bond trader and managing director at Seaport Global, in an email.
LOUSY CREDIT: Synchrony Financial, the country’s largest issuer and manager of store brand credit cards, plunged $4.19, or 14 percent, to $26.26 after the company disclosed that more of its customers were falling behind on payments. The company is also taking losses on more accounts than anticipated.
The news hit other credit card companies hard. American Express fell $2.69, or 4 percent, to $60.98 and Capital One Financial fell $4.47, or 4 percent, to $64.53.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 39 cents to $48.49 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 52 cents to $49.83 per barrel in London.
OVERSEAS: Germany’s DAX closed down 1.4 percent, France’s CAC-40 fell 2.3 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 index lost 2 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 1 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 0.6 percent.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 105.97 yen from 106.21 yen. The euro edged down to $1.1205 from $1.1293.
METALS: Gold rose $1.20 to $1,288.10 an ounce, silver fell 2 cents to $17.42 an ounce and copper fell 1 cent to $2.04 a pound.