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US, global stock markets weak ahead of Fed meeting

Stocks in the U.S. and other global markets were falling for a fourth day Thursday 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 103 points, or 0.6 percent, to 17,628 as of 11:05 a.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 13 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,066 and the Nasdaq composite rose 29 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,820.

Bond yields continued to decline as investors sought safety ahead of the Fed meeting and the vote in Britain. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.60 percent from 1.61 percent the day before, trading at yields not seen since 2012.

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

Germany’s DAX fell 1.2 percent in late-day trading, France’s CAC-40 fell 2 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 index lost 1.6 percent.

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.

“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 $3.42, or 11 percent, to $27.05 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 $2.27, or 3.6 percent, to $61.40 and Capital One Financial fell $3.10, or 4.5 percent, to $65.92.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 60 cents to $48.28 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 77 cents to $49.57 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 105.95 yen from 106.21 yen. The euro edged down to $1.1208 from $1.1293.

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