The Dow fell 170 points, in part on concerns about Syria (oil prices shot up about 3 percent), but stocks have been sliding for much of the month. On Aug. 2, the blue-chip index stood at 15,658; at the close of Tuesday's trading it had fallen around 900 points, to 14,776. August can be a tough month for the markets (volume is on the sluggish side because people are taking vacations), but this summer's decline is notable (and somewhat worrisome) because of soft economic and corporate indicators. There's also concern about another government impasse this fall. As for today, the focus was mainly defensive - whatever action President Obama takes against Syria is unlikely to have any significant economic impact, but still it's never great when the U.S. launches air strikes.
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