Wall Street tumbles as Ukraine tensions rise, China slows

NEW YORK Thu Mar 13, 2014 4:56pm EDT

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange March 11, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange March 11, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks tumbled on Thursday, with the Dow and the S&P 500 suffering their worst day since early February, on rising concerns over Ukraine and Russia and new signs of a slowdown in China.

Selling accelerated in afternoon trading after Russia launched military exercises near its border with Ukraine, showing no sign of backing down in its plans to annex its neighbor's Crimea region despite a stronger-than-expected push for sanctions from the EU and the United States.

In an unusually robust and emotionally worded speech, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of "catastrophe" unless Russia changes course.

The CBOE Volatility index VIX .VIX, Wall Street's so-called fear gauge, jumped more than 12 percent to 16.22. The index usually moves inversely to the S&P 500. A key emerging market exchange-traded fund, iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM.P), fell 1.8 percent to $38.19.

"(Ukraine headlines) are certainly going to be the catalyst but there is more under the surface," said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial Services in Charlotte, Vermont.

"There is no military solution to this. All it is, is positioning - and let's be realistic, these Chinese numbers last night were not good."

China's economy slowed markedly in the first two months of the year, as growth in investment, retail sales and factory output all fell to multi-year lows.

The S&P 500 broke below its 10-day and 14-day moving averages, which were acting as short-term technical support levels. It also broke below the 1,850 level.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 231.19 points or 1.41 percent, to 16,108.89, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 21.86 points or 1.17 percent, to 1,846.34 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 62.912 points or 1.46 percent, to 4,260.42.

Economically-sensitive sectors such as industrials .SPLRCI, down 1.5 percent, and technology .SPLRCT, down 1.6 percent, fared the worst. General Electric (GE.N) fell 1.6 percent to $25.34; Apple Inc (AAPL.O) lost 1.1 percent to $530.65.

Earlier, gains were supported by better-than-expected weekly initial jobless claims and retail sales data for February, although the prior month of retail sales was revised lower.

Import prices increased 0.9 percent last month, their biggest rise in a year as petroleum soared, but there was little sign of a broad pick-up in imported inflation.

About 7.5 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, according to BATS Global Markets, above the 6.8 billion daily average so far this month.

(Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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Comments (8)
tmc wrote:
Wall street opens up today after a day of usual day trading yesterday.

Mar 13, 2014 10:03am EDT  --  Report as abuse
nose2066 wrote:
Reuters has two similar stories back-to-back on this page of their website. This story says that “retail sales” went up. The other story says that “business sales” had a large drop.

For the benefit of uninformed readers (like me), maybe Reuters could explain the difference between “retail sales” and “business sales”?

Are they mutually exclusive, or is one a sub-category of the other?

Mar 13, 2014 10:42am EDT  --  Report as abuse
tmc wrote:
Breaking News – 11:39 am. Wall St. drops as more people are selling than buying on news of “normal day trading”.

Mar 13, 2014 11:40am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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