American stocks fell in a thinly traded session on Friday as investors avoided making large bets before a long weekend with the situation about Syria still uncertain.
Afternoon trading was volatile, with indexes swinging between break-even levels and solid losses as Secretary of State John Kerry said in televised remarks that Syria’s government used poison gas against civilians and made the case for a limited military response.
“People are uneasy not knowing what’s going on,” said John Carey, portfolio manager at Pioneer Investment Management in Boston. “With that uncertainty and going into the Labor Day holiday, we’re seeing people step back.”
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 30.64 points, or 0.21 percent, at 14,810.31. The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index fell 5.20 points, or 0.32 percent, at 1,632.97. The Nasdaq composite index was down 30.44 points, or 0.84 percent, at 3,589.87.
Trading was light ahead of the market holiday on Monday for Labor Day. About 3.99 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, below the daily average so far this year of about 6.31 billion shares.
“I tend to view the weakness as a buying opportunity, barring some global crisis,” said Mr. Carey, who helps oversee about $200 billion in assets. “Syria isn’t the crisis in and of itself, but if we do take military action, there could be repercussions.”
It has been a tough month over all for stocks. The S. P. 500 fell 3.1 percent in August and lost 1.8 percent for the week in a third decline in the last four weeks.
The Nasdaq fell 1.9 percent for the week while the Dow slid 1.3 percent in its fourth consecutive weekly loss. For the month, the Dow fell 4.4 percent and the Nasdaq lost 1 percent. Only one of the 30 Dow components, Microsoft, ended higher in August.
Almost 70 percent of stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange closed lower on Friday, while 73 percent of Nasdaq-listed shares ended in negative territory.
Video game companies were among the Nasdaq’s biggest decliners on Friday. Electronic Arts fell 3.37 percent, to $26.64, while Activision Blizzard fell 2.57 percent, to $16.32.
The chip maker OmniVision Technologies tumbled 16.08 percent on earnings weakness. It forecast current-quarter adjusted profit largely below expectations as rising competition and a slowdown of smartphone sales in the United States led to an inventory pileup.
Salesforce.com, the best performer in the S. P. 500, jumped 12.55 percent, to $49.13, after the company raised its fiscal 2014 sales outlook and reported better-than-expected revenue and earnings. The Apache Corporation, the oil and gas producer, climbed 8.95 percent, to $85.68. The company said it was selling a 33 percent stake in its Egypt oil and gas business for $3.1 billion to the state-owned Chinese oil giant Sinopec Group.
The price of the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell 8/32, to 97 16/32, and its yield rose to 2.79 percent, from 2.76 percent late Thursday.