S&P 500 caps worst month since May 2012 amid tension over Syria

Slow Trading

About 5 billion shares changed hands today on U.S. exchanges, 18% below the three-month average. Trading has averaged about 5.4 billion shares a day in August, the second- slowest month in at least five years, according to data Bloomberg began compiling in 2008.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, or VIX, rose 1.1% to a two-month high of 16.99. The equity volatility gauge surged 26% this month, the most since May 2012.

Eight of the 10 main groups in the S&P 500 retreated today, led by declines of at least 0.5% among technology and consumer-discretionary stocks.

An S&P index of homebuilders slipped 2.1%, bringing its decline this month to 8.8% amid growing concern that rising interest rates could slow the housing recovery. PulteGroup lost 3% to $15.39 and D.R. Horton Inc. fell 3% to $17.85.

Computers, Donuts

Hewlett-Packard dropped 0.8% to $22.34. Global personal-computer shipments will decline more than previously forecast this year as consumers in emerging markets follow those in developed countries in shifting to mobile devices, research firm IDC said yesterday in a statement.

Krispy Kreme, the chain that revived itself by expanding beyond sweet treats into coffee and smoothies, tumbled 15% to $19.72. Excluding certain items, second-quarter profit was 14 cents a share. Analysts on average estimated 16 cents, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Salesforce.com jumped 13% to a record $49.13 for the biggest increase in the S&P 500. The company, which acquired e- mail marketing provider ExactTarget Inc. last month for $2.5 billion in its biggest deal ever, issued third-quarter sales and earnings forecasts that topped analysts’ estimates and raised guidance for the year.

Apache Corp. rallied 9% to $85.68, the biggest gain since November 2008. China Petrochemical Corp., Asia’s largest refiner, agreed to pay $3.1 billion for a 33% stake in Apache’s Egyptian oil and gas business, marking the state-owned company’s biggest purchase in the Middle East.

Debt Ceiling

Investors head into the holiday weekend watching the political wrangling over the approaching limit on federal spending. The U.S. government is expected to exhaust its ability to borrow funds in mid-October, when it will hit the statutory debt limit, according to an estimate from the Treasury Department.

“September promises to be an important month, as discussions on the U.S. debt situation resurface and as the holiday season ends,” Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Plc in London, wrote in an e-mail. “As investors roll up their sleeves for the last third of the year, volumes should pick up markedly from the current low levels.”


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