* Putin comments on Ukraine may ease geopolitical tensions
* Gold prices decline, U.S. dollar index edges up
* Yellen says U.S. economy needs support, cites geopolitical
(Updates to open of U.S. trading; changes dateline; previous
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, May 7 Stock markets around the world
were flat on Wednesday as investors digested comments from
Russian President Vladimir Putin that indicated a possible
easing to the geopolitical concerns over Ukraine that have
recently weighed on markets.
Putin said he was ready to discuss a way out of the
Ukrainian crisis and called on separatists in east Ukraine to
postpone a May 11 referendum on the status of the mostly
Russian-speaking region. He spoke after talks with the head of
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who
said the security and rights body would soon propose a "road
map" to defuse the crisis.
Gold, viewed as a safe-haven asset, fell 0.8 percent, while
the U.S. dollar rose slightly against a basket of currencies,
though it remained near a six-month low.
"We need confidence that the Russia situation remains
isolated; getting that would do a lot to stabilize the market.
Of course, anything that suggests more escalation is on the way
would be a real negative for the market," said Eric Green,
senior portfolio manager at Penn Capital Management in
Market participants also paid close attention to testimony
from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who said the U.S.
economy was still in need of support from the central bank given
the "considerable slack" in the labor market. She also cited the
housing sector and geopolitical tensions as issues of concern.
That the U.S. economy needs more accommodation "may mean the
economy isn't recovering as much as we were expecting," said
Green, who helps oversee about $7.5 billion in assets.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 22.74 points,
or 0.14 percent, at 16,423.76. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was down 1.37 points, or 0.07 percent, at 1,866.35. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was down 48.95 points, or 1.20
percent, at 4,031.81.
The Nasdaq was pressured by a sharp decline in shares of
Whole Foods Market Inc, which plummeted more than 20
percent to $38.06 following disappointing results. Yahoo Inc
was also sharply lower, down 5.6 percent at $34.47.
The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was
unchanged in price to yield 2.595 percent. The U.S. dollar index
rose 0.07 percent against a basket of currencies. Both
the yen and euro were flat against the dollar.
European shares were flat after trading lower
earlier in the session. The MSCI International ACWI Price Index
fell 0.3 percent.
Oil prices rose, underpinned by tensions in Ukraine, though
Brent's premium over U.S. prices narrowed after an industry
report showed a sharp draw in inventories in the world's largest
U.S. crude futures rose 1.3 percent to $100.79 while
Brent crude was up 0.4 percent.
(Editing by Dan Grebler)