WASHINGTON (AP) _ Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin refused to speculate Wednesday about the impact a House vote to impeach President Clinton would have on financial markets, insisting that the underlying fundamentals for the U.S. economy remain strong.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Rubin distanced himself from remarks that presidential spokesman Joe Lockhart had made earlier in the week that any ``uncertainty is bad for the markets. I think a Senate trial lends uncertainty.''

Asked about Lockhart's statements, Rubin said, ``We as the administration really do not comment on the markets and what drives them, and I think that's the right place to be.''

Rubin said that in the long run what determines stock market values are underlying economic fundamentals, and he said on that score, ``the most likely scenario is still as you look forward solid growth and low inflation.''

The Dow Jones industrial average staged a solid rally on Tuesday, but stocks returned to the negative territory Wednesday, falling a moderate 32.70 to close at 8,790.60. It was the Dow's sixth losing session in the last seven trading days, a downturn that some analysts have blamed in part on rising impeachment jitters.

But many analysts said a series of reports Wednesday predicting smaller corporate profits _ plus concerns about the U.S. attack on Iraq _ had more to do with Wednesday's drop.

Congressional leaders said Wednesday they would postpone an impeachment vote if the United States attacked Iraq.

While Rubin refused to speculate on the market's reaction if the House votes articles of impeachment, Commerce Secretary William Daley said he was concerned about the impact the impeachment debate was having on the government's ability to function.

``It's a serious question as to the impact on the overall government and our ability to function _ this sort of rancorous, mean-spirited, highly partisan, personally offensive sort of action,'' Daley told reporters.