NEW YORK – Stocks fell for a fifth day on concern that Washington lawmakers will fail to reach a budget deal before a self-imposed year-end deadline.
The five-day losing streak for the Dow Jones industrial average was the longest since July.
The Dow dropped 158.20 points to 12,938.11 points, with losses accelerating in the last 20 minutes of trading as reports circulated that President Barack Obama would not be making a new budget proposal in a meeting with congressional leaders.
The Standard & Poor 500 index fell 15.67 points to 1,402.43, its longest losing streak in three months, and the Nasdaq dropped 25.59 points to 2,960.31.
“The reality, late in the day, is that a deal is just not going to get done,” said Ryan Detrick, a senior technical strategist at Schaeffer Investment Research. “We could be greeted by a big sell-off at the start of January.”
President Barack Obama returned from a Christmas break in Hawaii to meet with congressional leaders at the White House to try to thrash out the terms of a deal that would prevent across-the-board tax increases for millions of Americans as well as simultaneous government spending cuts beginning Jan. 1. Those measures, if implemented, could push the economy back into recession, economists say.
Despite the fiscal gridlock in Washington, major stock indexes are holding on to gains for the year. The Dow is up 5.9 percent, the S&P 500 index is 11.5 percent higher and the Nasdaq is up 13.6 percent.
Stocks declined despite reports that suggested the outlook for the economy is improving.
A measure of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes increased last month to its highest level in two and a half years, the latest sign of improvement in the once-battered housing market. The National Association of Realtors said Friday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose to its highest level since April 2010.