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Stocks fell Friday as the Obama administration made a case against Syria, giving the Dow Jones industrial average its worst monthly drop since May 2012.
President Obama said Friday that the U.S. has determined with high confidence the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people. Obama said he is considering a "limited, narrow act" as a military response.
The White House released a four-page report summarizing their case against the Bashar Assad regime.
The Dow fell 31 points, or 0.2%, to close Friday at 14,810, giving it a 4.5% loss for August. That was the worst since a 6.3% drop in May 2012.
The blue-chip gauge now heads into September, which historically has been its worst month. September is the only month in which the Dow has posted negative returns in the past 100, 50 and 20 years.
September has also been a volatile month the past seven years, with the Dow either gaining or losing 2% or more every year since 2006. Ironically, despite its lousy history, the Dow has enjoyed September gains five of the past seven years.
The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fall 5 points, or 0.3%, to 1,633, and the Nasdaq composite dropped 30 points, or 0.8%, to 3,590.
Stocks were also under pressure earlier after the Commerce Department said Friday that U.S. consumers barely increased their spending in July after their income grew more slowly.
The markets will be closed Monday for the Labor Day holiday.
Benchmark oil for October delivery was down $1.10 to $107.69 per barrel in electronic trading Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Gold dropped below $1,400 an ounce as it fell $19 to about $1,394 an ounce. The benchmark 10-year Treasury note yielded 2.77%, vs. 2.75% Thursday.
Shares of Salesforce.com jumped to an all-time high Friday after the cloud computing company reported strong quarterly results and raised its sales forecast late Thursday. Salesforce.com jumped almost 13%.
On Thursday, the Dow rose 0.1% to close at 14,840.95. The S&P 500 advanced 0.2% to 1,638.17. The Nasdaq climbed 0.8% to 3,620.30.
In Asia Friday, the Nikkei in Tokyo fell 70.85 points, or 0.5% to 13,388.86. Manufacturing in the world's No. 3 economy rose 1.6% in July from a year earlier and 3.2% from the month before. While that pointed to an economic recovery, analysts had expected to see a 3.6% increase.
Japanese inflation rose 0.7% last month, the fastest consumer prices have increased in five years in the world's third-largest economy.
European shares traded lower. Britian's FTSE 100 fell 1.1% to 6,413. France's CAC-40 dropped 1.3% to 3,934, while the DAX in Germany pulled back 1.1% to 8,103.
Lawmakers in the U.K. refrained from authorizing British participation in action against Syria after an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus killed more than 300 civilians earlier this month. The U.S. government is considering a response, although the White House says President Obama hasn't decided on when and how big it might be.
That helped calm investor nerves, said Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG in Melbourne, Australia. "There's been a slight downgrade to Syria fears," Shamu said.
Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY
Contributing: Associated Press