Everything from stocks to gold to oil is moving lower today as a potential conflict between the U.S. and Syria looks increasingly imminent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is down 0.11% as of 3:15 p.m. EDT, and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is down 0.19%, while gold and oil are both down 1.1%. The only real economic report for the day was the University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index for August, which was 82.1 down from 85.1 a month ago but up from an initial estimate of 80. Sentiment can bounce around from month to month, so a slight decline isn't anything to get worked up about.
I don't think a small conflict in Syria will have a detrimental long-term effect on stock markets or even oil, but for today, traders have little reason to be buyers. John Kerry condemned the Syrian regime's "indiscriminate and inconceivable horror of chemical weapons," continuing the saber-rattling from Washington. That has everyone a little bit on edge, putting a damper on the markets.
One big mover on the Dow today is Verizon (NYSE:VZ), which has fallen 0.7%. There was initial euphoria over the prospect of Verizon buying out the 45% stake in Verizon Wireless owned by Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD), but that has worn off over the past two days. The prospect of a $130 billion buyout is daunting, especially when you consider that Verizon might have to take on $60 billion of debt in the process.
The other worry is that borrowing costs will rise along with Verizon's debt load. Estimates put Verizon's debt after the deal at about $112 billion, which might force rating agencies to downgrade the company's debt from "A-" to "BBB+." A lower rating and higher debt would be a double whammy for Verizon.
I still think it's a good deal for both companies, but Verizon has a lot more at stake taking on $60 billion of debt to buy Verizon Wireless, and the appetite for that risk has waned, pushing shares lower.
Fool contributor Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of Vodafone. The Motley Fool recommends Vodafone. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.