Stocks sag following Kerry’s Syria remarks

NEW YORK — The stock market sagged Monday after the Obama administration ratcheted up pressure against Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry said there was “undeniable” evidence of a large-scale chemical weapons attack in Syria last week, and his remarks suggested that the administration was edging closer to a military response.

A handful of corporate deals gave the market a lift in the early going. Amgen surged following its announcement late Sunday that the biotech giant plans to buy Onyx Pharmaceuticals for $10.4 billion. In the last hour of trading. Kerry’s televised talk appeared to jolt markets lower.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 64.05 to close at 14,946.46. The S&P 500 index ended with a loss of 6.72 at 1,656.78. The Nasdaq fell 0.22 to 3,657.57.

Orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods slide

WASHINGTON — Orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods fell sharply last month as demand for commercial aircraft plummeted and businesses spent less on computers and electrical equipment.

Orders for durable goods plunged 7.3 percent in July, the Commerce Department said Monday. It’s the steepest drop in nearly a year. Excluding the volatile transportation category, orders fell just 0.6 percent. Both declines followed three straight months of increases.

Core capital goods fell 3.3 percent. These are considered a good measure of businesses’ confidence in the economy and include machinery, computers and heavy trucks, while excluding volatile aircraft and defense. The drop followed four straight months of gains.

The drop suggests the third quarter is off to a weaker start than some had hoped.

Treasury: U.S. will hit debt limit in mid-Oct.

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is telling Congress that the U.S. government will hit its borrowing limit in mid-October and urged lawmakers to reach a budget deal before then.

Lew said in a letter to Speaker John Boehner that the government is running out of accounting maneuvers it has used to avoid hitting the $16.7 trillion borrowing limit. He pressed Congress to raise the borrowing limit before then so Treasury can keep paying the government’s bills.

Earlier this year, Congress temporarily suspended the borrowing limit so lawmakers could focus on other budget debates. Treasury has kept the government operating for several months through its bookkeeping maneuvers. A smaller deficit this year has also helped.

Penney’s top investor to shed its entire stake

NEW YORK — J.C. Penney’s largest investor and former board member, William Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management, is selling his nearly 18 percent stake in the company.

The move to sell 39.1 million shares of the company, announced in a regulatory filing, comes two weeks after Ackman resigned from J.C. Penney’s board. That was part of a deal to resolve an unusually public battle between the activist investor and the struggling department store operator.

BATS merger to form No. 2 exchange in U.S.

NEW YORK — Stock exchange operator BATS Global Markets is buying Direct Edge to create the nation’s second-biggest stock exchange.

The new company will account for about 21 percent of the approximately 6.5 billion shares that are traded daily on exchanges, according to BATS. It would leapfrog over the Nasdaq and rank behind the New York Stock Exchange. The combination is “an important milestone for the U.S. equities market,” said BATS CEO Joe Ratterman, who will serve as CEO of the merged company.

The deal is part of a trend of consolidation among global stock exchanges.

Wire reports