Wall St ends down in rocky session as U.S. bans Russian oil imports

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  • Defensive groups lead declines, staples drop most
  • Energy sector up as oil prices surge higher
  • Caterpillar jumps on Jefferies upgrade to buy
  • Indexes down: Dow 0.56%, S&P 500 0.72%, Nasdaq 0.28%

March 8 (Reuters) - Major U.S. stock indexes ended lower in rocky trading on Tuesday, as investors weighed fast-paced developments around the crisis in Ukraine as the United States banned Russian oil and other energy imports over the invasion.

Losses accelerated into the end of Tuesday's up-and-down session, a day after steep declines that saw the tech-heavy Nasdaq confirm it was in a bear market. The benchmark S&P 500 fell for a fourth straight session.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced the ban on Russian oil and other energy imports, underscoring strong bipartisan support for a move that he acknowledged would drive up U.S. energy prices, while Britain said it would phase out imports of Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022. read more

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"I think it is just investors trying to probe whether it is worth buying the dips and we had a real big one yesterday," said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana. "Anytime that the buying seems to get a little out of hand on the upside there seems to be willing sellers coming in."

“To me, it’s a trader’s market and people looking for very short-term momentum shifts to trade,” Carlson said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) fell 184.74 points, or 0.56%, to 32,632.64, the S&P 500 (.SPX) lost 30.39 points, or 0.72%, to 4,170.7 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) dropped 35.41 points, or 0.28%, to 12,795.55.

Defensive sectors were the biggest decliners, with consumer staples (.SPLRCS) falling 2.6%, healthcare (.SPXHC) dropping 2.1% and utilities (.SPLRCU) down 1.6%.

Gains in megacap growth stocks, such as Tesla (TSLA.O), Meta Platforms (FB.O) and Alphabet (GOOGL.O), helped mitigate losses for the S&P 500.

The energy sector (.SPNY), a standout performer this year, continued its charge higher, rising 1.4%.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Brent crude topped $130 per barrel along with other commodities, triggering alarm over surging inflation and the impact on global economic growth. U.S. gasoline prices hit a record on Tuesday. read more

"There is a just a lot of uncertainty right now of what the impact is going to be on the U.S. economy," said James Ragan, director of wealth management research at D.A. Davidson. "I think we will see a little pullback in the U.S. consumer. Obviously, the gasoline prices are going to cause people to pause a little bit."

Ukraine's government accused Russian forces of shelling a humanitarian corridor that Moscow, which describes its actions as a "special operation", had promised to open to let residents flee the besieged port of Mariupol. read more

Stocks have struggled as concerns about the Russia-Ukraine crisis have deepened a sell-off initially fueled by worries over higher bond yields as the Federal Reserve is expected to tighten monetary policy this year to fight inflation.

On Monday, the Nasdaq confirmed it was in a bear market, falling over 20% from its record high, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average confirmed it was in a correction as it closed more than 10% lower from its record peak.

In company news, shares of Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N) jumped 6.8% after Jefferies upgraded the construction equipment maker's stock to "buy" from "hold" as a hedge against inflation and prospects of more investments.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.02-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.09-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 18 new 52-week highs and 78 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 34 new highs and 525 new lows.

About 19 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, the most in over a year, compared with the 13.4 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.

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Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York, Devik Jain, Sabahatjahan Contractor and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Lisa Shumaker

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