Dow falls for a third day as investors grow cautious in September

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell for a third day on Wednesday as investors reassess the economic growth outlook following a smooth ride in the market so far this year.

The Dow fell more than 100 points. The S&P 500 dipped 0.3%. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 0.8% after closing at a record on Tuesday.

The 30-stock average is in the red for its third trading day in a row. On Tuesday, the Dow fell more than 260 points, adding to Friday’s losses after a disappointing August jobs report. September’s outlook also remains clouded by the coronavirus delta variant.

Shares of Coinbase fell more than 3% after the cryptocurrency exchange revealed it received a notice of possible enforcement action from the Securities and Exchange CommissionCoupa Software fell 2% despite its better-than-expected quarterly financial results.

Many investors are bracing for volatility in September, one of the seasonally weakest months of the year. Price swings could make a comeback, especially with the S&P 500 up more than 20% this year without a single 5% pullback.

“We see a bumpy September-October as the final stages of a mid-cycle transition play out,” Morgan Stanley chief cross-asset strategist Andrew Sheets said in a note. “The next two months carry an outsized risk to growth, policy and the legislative agenda.”

The S&P 500 is down 0.4% this month. The Dow is down about 1% and the Nasdaq is about flat in September.

One of the catalysts for a sell-off could be the Federal Reserve and the potential for it to pull back an unprecedented monetary stimulus to support the economy throughout the pandemic. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has indicated that the central bank is likely to begin withdrawing some of its easy-money policies before year-end, though he still sees interest rate hikes in the distance.

“The summer rally to a new S&P high, with potential headwinds like rising rates on the horizon, has left investors debating whether US equities can make meaningful new gains the rest of this year and into next year. Equities are likely to have a pullback at some point, likely driven by another reset in real yields higher, but other tailwinds should drive the S&P 500 to a new high by year end,” UBS told clients on Wednesday as it raised its S&P 500 price target for the end of the year to 4,650 and for 2022 to 4,850.

On Wednesday, the Labor Department released the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, which showed job openings rose to a record 10.9 million in July. Job openings outnumbered the unemployed by more than 2 million in July as companies struggled to fill a record number of vacancies.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is set to publish its periodic “Beige Book” survey of activity across its 12 districts.

The S&P 500 fell 0.3% on Tuesday in relatively thin trading following the Labor Day weekend. The blue-chip Dow dropped 260 points, weighed down by 3M and Honeywell, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose less than 0.1% to eke out a record close.

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