* S&P 500 more than 2 percent from record close
* Investors continue to watch geopolitical tensions
* Intercept, Exact Sciences jump on drug news
* Dow up less than 0.1 percent; S&P, Nasdaq flat
(Updates to market open)
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Aug 12 U.S. stocks were little changed
on Tuesday as uncertainty continued to swirl around the tense
situation in Ukraine, even as many investors bet that it would
not escalate dramatically.
Equities have come under pressure because of the unrest
between Russia and Ukraine, with the S&P 500 at one point down
about 4 percent from a record closing high hit in late July. The
benchmark has recovered some of that decline, and rose over the
past two sessions, but it remains more than 2.5 percent below
its record, suggesting traders may see bargains in the market.
Futures rose early in the premarket session, but
subsequently came off their highs amid ongoing concerns about
the region, with Ukraine reporting that Russia had massed 45,000
troops on its border. Russia said a convoy of 280 trucks
carrying humanitarian aid had set off for Ukraine, and Western
governments warned against using help as a pretext for an
"The situation seems a bit quieter now, with the aid going
in, but it will take a while for this to play out, and this
doesn't seem like a time for people to stick their necks out,"
said James Dunigan, chief investment officer at PNC Wealth
Management in Philadelphia.
"It is hard to see the market moving higher in the short
term, but long-term investors can still find value and the U.S.
economic backdrop continues to be very positive."
Investors remained concerned about the fallout from any
escalation in tensions. In Germany, geopolitical anxiety hit
economic sentiment in August, the ZEW think tank said, with
investor morale dropping to its lowest since December 2012.
Market participants also monitored other areas of unrest,
including the recent violence in the Gaza Strip and Israel and
U.S. air strikes in Iraq.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 7.93 points or
0.05 percent, to 16,577.91, the S&P 500 gained 0.69
points or 0.04 percent, to 1,937.61 and the Nasdaq Composite
dropped 1.67 points or 0.04 percent, to 4,399.66.
Drug companies rallied, with Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc
soaring 30 percent to $307.25 a day after saying its
drug to treat liver disease was effective in mid-stage trials.
Exact Sciences rose 7.4 percent to $18.35 after the
Food and Drug Administration approved its noninvasive colorectal
cancer screening test.
Energy companies were among the weakest of the day. The S&P
Energy index fell 0.6 percent, dropping alongside a 0.7
percent fall in crude oil. Anadarko Petroleum
fell 1.7 percent to $106.75 while Consol Energy was down
1.6 percent to $39.82. Both were among the top 5 biggest
percentage decliners on the S&P 500.
Mobile service provider NII Holdings Inc's shares
plummeted 65 percent to 22 cents - the stock's biggest one-day
decline ever - a day after saying it may have to file for
bankruptcy after struggling to compete in Brazil and Mexico. The
stock has lost almost 92 percent in 2014.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Nick Zieminski)