* Ukraine conflict continues, Russia seizes marine base
* Weak China data raises hopes for stimulus
* Nasdaq hit as trading favorites like Netflix, Tesla sink
* Herbalife rallies; Icahn to get more reps on board
* Indexes down: Dow 0.3 pct, S&P 0.7 pct, Nasdaq 1.5 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, March 24 U.S. stocks fell sharply on
Monday, with the Nasdaq suffering its biggest daily percentage
decline since early February, as the ongoing crisis in Ukraine
pushed investors to take profits in some of the market's biggest
The Nasdaq's losses took it below its 50-day moving average,
a sign of weakening near-term momentum, and almost 80 percent of
issues traded on the exchange were lower. About two-thirds of
New York Stock Exchange-listed shares were lower, and eight of
the ten S&P 500 sectors dropped on the day.
Futures had been higher throughout the premarket session,
lifted by hopes that China would take stimulative measures to
support its economy, but indexes turned lower early, with the
Nasdaq especially hit hard by steep losses in some of its
biggest recent outperformers. Netflix Inc dropped 6.7
percent to $378.60, Tesla Motors shed 5.5 percent to
$216.35 and Facebook Inc slid 4.4 percent to $64.25.
Netflix was the S&P's biggest percentage gainer in 2013,
while Tesla soared 344 percent last year and extended that rally
by more than 40 percent so far this year.
"If we went into an extended period of profit-taking, [these
stocks are] where a significant amount of the profits are, and
that's where a significant amount would be taken," said Art
Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New
Ukraine announced the evacuation of its troops from Crimea,
essentially yielding the region to Russian forces, which seized
a Ukrainian marine base. While few U.S. companies have excessive
exposure to the region, investors are concerned about the
potential economic fallout from any escalation in tensions.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who has imposed personal
sanctions against some of Russian President Vladimir Putin's
political and business allies, began crisis talks with his
European allies over how to respond in the biggest East-West
conflict since the Cold War.
"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,"
Hogan said. "This remains at the forefront of what we're paying
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 54.58
points, or 0.33 percent, at 16,248.19. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was down 12.56 points, or 0.67 percent, at
1,853.96. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 65.13
points, or 1.52 percent, at 4,211.66.
Losses were limited in the Dow by a rise in Procter & Gamble
Co, a consumer staple that is considered a defensive
play. That stock rose 2.2 percent to $79.56, snapping a four-day
China's manufacturing engine contracted in the first quarter
of 2014, according to the flash Markit/HSBC Purchasing Managers'
Index. The report came in below expectations but raised hopes
for new stimulative measures.
In the latest U.S. economic data, financial data firm Markit
said its preliminary read on March manufacturing activity slowed
after nearing a four-year high last month, but the rate of
growth and the pace of hiring remained strong.
Herbalife Ltd said it would allow three more
representatives of billionaire investor Carl Icahn, the
company's biggest shareholder, to join its board. Shares of the
nutrition and weight-loss company jumped 6.5 percent to $52.77.
NU Skin Enterprises Inc shares soared 19 percent to
$89.52 on heavy volume. Earlier, China fined the company more
than $500,000 for illegal product sales and misleading local
consumers, China's State Administration for Industry & Commerce
said in a statement on its website. NU Skin last week said it
expected a fine.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple Inc was
in talks with Comcast Corp to enter a deal for a
streaming-television service that would allow Apple set-top
boxes to bypass congestion on the web. The companies declined to
comment on the report. Shares of Apple rose 0.8 percent to
$537.32 while Comcast dipped 0.8 percent to $49.59.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)