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Stocks close lower over concerns about Brexit vote and Federal Reserve meeting

Stocks in the U.S. and other global markets fell for a fourth day Tuesday as jittery investors waited for the Federal Reserve’s decision on interest rates and worried about Britain’s expected close vote on whether to leave the European Union. 

Credit card company stocks in particular fell sharply after Synchrony Financial, the country’s leading issuer of store brand credit cards, warned that more of its customers were falling behind on payments. 

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 57.66 points, or 0.3%, to 17,674.82. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 3.74 points, or 0.2%, to 2,075.32 and the Nasdaq composite fell 4.89 points, or 0.1%, to 4,843.55. 

As stocks declined, 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%, up slightly from a day earlier. 

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In Europe, benchmark German government bond yields fell below 0% for the first time, a signal that skittish investors are willing to pay to park their money in investments they consider super-safe. 

The Federal Reserve’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. 

Most investors are focused overseas right now. There is grave 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. 

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A British exit from the EU, known informally as Brexit, would probably hurt the British economy most and destabilize the rest of Europe, analysts say. 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 Britain were to leave the EU, both the British and European Central Banks would probably 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. 

Closer to home, Synchrony Financial plunged $3.99, or 13%, to $26.45 after announcing the problems with the credit quality of its customers, which has forced the company to take more losses on its accounts than anticipated. 

The news hit other credit card companies hard. American Express fell $2.60, or 4%, to $61.07, and Capital One Financial fell $4.57, or 6.6%, to $64.43. 

In commodities, the benchmark U.S. crude oil 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. 

Wholesale gasoline futures fell 1 cent to $1.52 a gallon, heating old fell 1 cent to $1.50 a gallon and natural gas rose 2 cents to $2.604 per thousand cubic feet. 

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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 

The dollar fell to 105.97 yen from 106.21 yen. The euro edged down to $1.1205 from $1.1293.

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UPDATES:

1:52 p.m.: This article was updated with closing prices and additional analysis.

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8:04 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with mid-morning trading results.

This article was originally published at 6:57 a.m.


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