U.S. Stocks Move Sharply Lower Amid Worries About Russian Invasion Of Ukraine

(RTTNews) – Stocks moved sharply lower over the course of the trading day on Friday, extending the sell-off seen in the previous session. The major averages fluctuated early in the session but showed a substantial move to the downside as the day progressed.

The major averages all posted steep losses on the day, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq leading the way lower. While the Nasdaq plummeted 394.49 points or 2.8 percent to 13,791.15, the Dow slumped 503.53 points or 1.4 percent to 34,738.06 and the S&P 500 tumbled 85.44 points or 1.9 percent to 4,418.64.

With the sell-off offsetting the strong upward move seen on Tuesday and Wednesday, the major averages posted notable losses for the week. The Dow slid by 1 percent, while the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 dove by 2.2 percent and 1.8 percent.

The substantial weakness that emerged on Wall Street came amid concerns about a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.

During a press briefing, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan suggested a Russian invasion could occur during the Winter Olympics currently being held in Beijing.

Sullivan also said any Americans in Ukraine should leave the country in the next 24 to 48 hours, reiterating a plea President Joe Biden made on Thursday.

The U.K. Foreign Office has also urged British citizens to get out of Ukraine as Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near the border.

Earlier in the day, uncertainty about the outlook for interest rates led to choppy trading on Wall Street following comments from several Federal Reserve officials.

In an interview with Bloomberg News on Thursday, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard indicated he supports raising interest rates by a full percentage point by the start of July, including a possible 50-basis point hike.

“I was already more hawkish but I have pulled up dramatically what I think the committee should do,” said Bullard, who is a voting member on the Federal Open Market Committee this year.

Bullard’s comments came after a report from the Labor Department showed consumer prices spiked by the highest annual rate in 40 years in January.

However, other Fed officials have subsequently pushed back against the idea of raising rates by 50 basis points at the next Fed meeting in mid-March.

Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic told CNBC he still favors a 25-basis point increase in March, while Richmond Fed President Tom Barkin said he would “have to be convinced” of the need for a 50-basis-point rate hike.

San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly also said a 50-basis-point hike is “not my preference,” according to CNBC’s Steve Liesman.

Sector News

Semiconductor stocks showed a substantial move to the downside as the day progressed, dragging the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index down by 4.8 percent.

Considerable weakness also emerged among airline stocks, resulting in a 4.2 percent nosedive by the NYSE Arca Airline Index.

Software stocks also saw considerable weakness on the day, as reflected by the 3 percent slump by the Dow Jones U.S. Software Index.

Retail, chemical and networking stocks also showed notable moves to the downside, while gold stocks soared as the price of the precious metal spiked in electronic trading.

Energy stocks also bucked the downtrend amid a sharp increase by the price of crude oil. Crude for March delivery surged $3.22 to $93.10 a barrel amid concerns about the situation in Ukraine.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower on Friday, with the Japanese markets closed for a holiday. China’s Shanghai Composite Index slid by 0.7 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index edged down by 0.1 percent.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index tumbled by 1.3 percent, the German DAX Index fell by 0.4 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index dipped by 0.2 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries saw substantial volatility over the course of the session before closing notably higher. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, dropped 7.6 basis points to 1.955 percent.

Looking Ahead

Developments in Ukraine may impact trading next week, while traders are also likely to pay close attention to reports on producer prices, retail sales and industrial production as well as the minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting.

On the earnings front, retail giant Walmart (WMT) is among the companies due to report their quarterly results next week.

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