U.S. stocks fell, sending the Dow Jones industrial average to the lowest level since April, as concern that the Ukraine conflict is escalating offset better-than-estimated earnings and a drop in American jobless claims.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.6 percent to 1,909.57 at 4 p.m. in New York, closing below its average price for the past 100 days for the first time since April. The Dow dropped 75.01 points, or 0.5 percent, to 16,368.33, close to its 200-day moving average. Trading in S&P 500 companies was in line with the 30-day average for this time of day.
“The uncertainty over the situation in Ukraine has overshadowed the positive economic data we saw earlier today,” John Manley, who helps oversee about $233 billion as chief equity strategist for Wells Fargo Funds Management in New York, said. “The market has adapted to the positive data, but when it comes to geopolitical tensions, it’s hard to adapt. Tensions rise and we’re reaching the last level before the situation spins out of control.”
The S&P 500 has lost 4 percent since reaching a record of 1,987.98 on July 24, and is about 60 points away from wiping out its gains for 2014. The U.S. equities benchmark extended losses in afternoon trading, with the gauge falling below 1,905 for the first time in more than two months.
Equities stemmed their declines as e-mini S&P 500 futures recovered after briefly falling below 1,900 and the Dow managed to hold above its average price in the past 200 days.
The S&P 500 fell below its 100-day moving average of 1,913.72 after NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Russia to “step back from the brink” by pulling back troops and halting aid for rebels.
Russia has massed troops along its border with Ukraine, prompting the U.S. to say there’s a risk of an invasion. President Putin retaliated yesterday against European Union and U.S. sanctions by ordering restrictions on food imports from countries that seek to punish Russia.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the risks to the recovery from conflicts including that in Ukraine are increasing. Headwinds facing the 18-nation euro area’s recovery are intensifying after Italy slipped back into recession and the standoff between Russia and the U.S. and its allies escalated into the worst such conflict since the Cold War.
Draghi has said large-scale asset purchases are an option for dealing with a severe economic shock, leaving investors seeking clarification on what the trigger could be.
In the U.S., data showed fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, sending the average over the past month to an eight-year low, a sign the labor market continues to gain momentum.
The government’s employment report last week showed companies in the U.S. added more than 200,000 jobs for a sixth straight month in July, the longest such period since 1997. U.S. gross domestic product expanded at a 4 percent annual pace in the second quarter, confirming the Fed’s view that a first-quarter contraction was transitory.
“You just have some geopolitical fear out there that investors always place some risk premium on,” Greg Woodard, a strategist in Fairport, New York, at Manning & Napier Inc., which has about $54 billion under management, said in a phone interview. “If you have underlying fundamentals improving, you have individual companies doing well, and you get some volatility as a result of macroeconomic worries, we’d view that as an opportunity to selectively buy.”
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