* Crimea keeps investors wary as Obama begins talks
* Gold drops on concerns about U.S. rate hike
* Slowing growth in Germany, China weigh on some investors
By Barani Krishnan
NEW YORK, March 24 Global equity markets fell on
Monday, rattled by Ukraine's ongoing crisis and on weak data out
of China that added to worries about the global economy, while
gold fell on concerns about higher U.S. interest rates and a
The dollar firmed and the euro slipped after signs of
slowing growth in Germany, the euro zone's largest economy.
Tension between Ukraine and Russia continued to simmer after
Ukraine announced the evacuation of its troops from Crimea,
essentially yielding the region to Russian forces.
Investors are concerned about the potential economic
fallout, and shares of European companies with a big exposure to
Russia came under renewed pressure. President Barack Obama on
Monday began talks with European allies on a response to the
crisis as the potential for more sanctions looms.
"The issue remains contained for the time being, but Obama
will try and garner support for more sanctions, which will
ultimately shape our view of how things can end up looking,"
said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities
in New York. "This remains at the forefront of what we're paying
Data out of China also weighed on sentiment. The flash
Markit/HSBC China Purchasing Manager index fell to an
eight-month low of 48.1 in March. The index has been below 50,
the dividing line between expansion and contraction, since
January. Weakness in China, the world's second-largest economy,
is an worries investors because of its importance in the demand
for raw materials and technology.
On Wall Street, biotechnology and technology shares were
among the biggest losers; both sectors rallied sharply in the
last year or more.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 58.57 points,
or 0.36 percent, to 16,244.2, the S&P 500 lost 13.46
points, or 0.72 percent, to 1,853.06, and the Nasdaq Composite
dropped 75.249 points, or 1.76 percent, to 4,201.539.
The Nasdaq Biotech Index, which has gained more than
300 percent in the past five years, was down 4.4 percent.
Gold hit a one-month low on expectations of higher U.S.
interest rates by 2015. Spot gold dipped to $1,310.90 an
ounce, following a sharp fall triggered by comments last week
from Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen that suggested interest
rates could rise sooner than many in markets had expected.
"With higher yields you get a higher opportunity cost of
holding gold, and with the stronger U.S. dollar there is less of
a fear of currency debasement," Natixis analyst Bernard Dahdah
"We could see gold dropping below $1,300 in the next month
if we get the necessary U.S. data, a strengthening dollar and
German Bund futures extended losses after the flash
composite purchasing managers' index for France jumped to 51.6
in March from 47.9 last month.
The euro weakened after data showing growth in Germany
slowed in March, raising the potential for more monetary easing
from the European Central Bank. Data from the euro zone as a
whole dipped compared with February.
"Germany is going to determine ECB policy," said Boris
Schlossberg, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at
BK Asset Management in New York.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index, which rose 1.8 percent
last week, was down 1 percent.
The dollar index, which measures the greenback
against a basket of currencies, was up at 80.2 after reaching a
session peak of 80.29, not far from Thursday's three-week high
The euro last stood at $1.3774, down 0.1 percent on
the day, after the French data helped it touch a high of
$1.3875. The dollar rose 0.2 percent against the yen, to 102.50
(Additional reporting by Nigel Stephenson in London and Blaise
Robinson in Paris; Editing by Leslie Adler)