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Stock market jitters: Eight reasons investors are on edge

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People with disabilities rally at the Capitol Building in Washington, Sept. 21, 2011, calling on Congress to avoid cutting Medicaid funding as they look for ways to cut the federal budget. Is political gridlock keeping the US from making the fiscal reforms it needs?

Jason Reed/Reuters

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2. Political gridlock in the US

The US dollar may be the world's great "reserve currency," but Washington is hardly looking like a bastion of stability. President Obama and Republicans in Congress trade barbs in campaign mode about who is standing in the way of job creation or failing to be fiscally responsible. In late July and early August, consumer confidence tanked as the partisan bickering over increasing the national debt limit led the US to the brink of technical default on its debts.

Approval ratings for Mr. Obama sagged, with those of the politically divided Congress moving even lower. Bickering in Washington is nothing new. But many Americans now wonder if gridlock, seen in better times as a buffer against policies that might mess up the economy, is now a significant roadblock to progress on fiscal reform and agreeing on policies to encourage private-sector job creation. All the political chaos has dampened the confidence in the private sector. Which leads us to the next challenge ...

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