Stocks edged lower on Wall Street Monday after a surprisingly weak manufacturing report heightened concern that fiscal deadlock in Washington is already hurting the economy.
U.S. manufacturing declined in November to its weakest level since July 2009, the Institute for Supply Management reported.
"The ISM numbers probably took a little air out of what was some hope for better news on where the economy is going," said Jim Dunigan, executive vice president at PNC Wealth Management in Philadelphia.
Investors worry that a deal may not be reached in time to avoid the "fiscal cliff," a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts that economists say could push the United States back into recession.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 59.98 points to close at 12,965.60. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 0.47 percent to 1,409.46. The Nasdaq composite index was down 0.27 percent to 3,002.20.
December is historically the best month for stocks. The S&P 500 has advanced an average of 2 percent over the past 30 years during the month of December, according to research from Schaeffer's Investment Research. The worst month is September, where investors lose an average of 0.7 percent. -- AP