* Caution ahead of Sunday's referendum in Crimea
* U.S. consumer sentiment slips; bad weather eyed
* CBOE Volatility index surges 10 pct
* Indexes down: Dow 0.3 pct; S&P 0.3 pct; Nasdaq 0.4 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, March 14 Wall Street ended lower on
Friday with all three major stock indexes down for the week, as
concerns over tensions between Ukraine and Russia escalated
ahead of a referendum in Crimea this weekend.
The S&P 500 ended below a key technical support level of
1,850 for the second day. The index also ended down 2 percent
for the week, its biggest weekly loss since late January.
Moscow shipped more troops and armor into Crimea on Friday
and repeated its threat to invade other parts of Ukraine in
response to violence in Donetsk on Thursday night despite
Western demands to pull back.
Global equity markets were pressured, while gold and the yen
strengthened as traders flocked into the safe-haven assets.
The CBOE Volatility index VIX, Wall
Street's so-called fear gauge, rose 9.9 percent to 17.82.
Tensions between Ukraine and Russia were "the primary drag
on equities and risk assets this week," said Bucky Hellwig,
senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham,
"The referendum this weekend, and what the response from the
rest of the world and Russia will be to that," create a lot of
uncertainty, Hellwig said.
A key emerging market exchange-traded fund, the iShares MSCI
Emerging Markets ETF, gained 0.5 percent to $38.40 after
falling nearly 2 percent in the previous session.
Following the recent selloff in emerging markets, some
market participants believe now is the time to get into emerging
market equities, but analysts are wary.
"The numbers, certainly on the face of it, look compelling,"
said Jade Fu, investment manager at Heartwood Investment
Management in London. The MSCI emerging markets index is trading
at 1.5 times price-to-book value and poor sentiment has already
resulted in outflows of over $30 billion from emerging market
equities this year, Fu said.
But "it is difficult to hold a very optimistic view of
emerging market assets at this time, even if lower valuations
have made them appear more attractive."
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 43.22 points or
0.27 percent, to 16,065.67, the S&P 500 lost 5.21 points
or 0.28 percent, to 1,841.13 and the Nasdaq Composite
dropped 15.023 points or 0.35 percent, to 4,245.396.
For the week, the Dow fell 2.35 percent, the S&P dropped
1.97 percent and the Nasdaq lost 2.1 percent.
In economic news, producer prices fell 0.1 percent in
February, dragged down by falling costs for services, offering
little sign of inflation pressures. U.S. consumer sentiment
weakened in early March as an unusually harsh winter appeared to
dim views on the economy's prospects.
General Mills Inc fell 2.4 percent to $49.77. It
forecast third-quarter earnings below analysts' expectations as
it faces increased competition from store brands and spends more
on marketing its yogurts.
Aeropostale Inc tumbled 20.1 percent to $5.83. The
teen apparel retailer reported its fifth straight quarterly
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co jumped 6.7 percent to $24.36
after reporting fourth-quarter earnings ahead of Wall Street
About 6.7 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, according
to BATS Global Markets, below the 6.9 billion daily average so
far this month.