Story by the Associated Press; curated by Becket Adams
LONDON (AP) — Fears of a further escalation in Ukraine and a disappointing earnings statement from Amazon turned global markets south on Friday.
Stocks around the world fell sharply as Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the West of plotting to control Ukraine, while U.S. President Barack Obama said he will call key European leaders later Friday to discuss what’s happened since a deal was reached last week in Geneva to deescalate the crisis. A further round of sanctions on Moscow appears to be on the table.
The S&P 500 fell 15.21 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,863.40. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 140.19 points, or 0.9 percent, to 16,361.46 and the Nasdaq composite lost 72.78 points, or 1.8 percent, to 4,075.56.
Friday’s sell-off was enough to push the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq into the red for the week.
Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded its view on Russia’s debt to one notch above so-called junk status and warned that the country “could see additional significant outflows of both domestic and foreign capital from the Russian economy.”
The move further weighed on Russian markets and was followed soon by a surprise interest rate increase by the country’s central bank. The MICEX index in Moscow closed down 1.6 percent while the ruble was 0.9 percent lower against the dollar, at 36.07 rubles per dollar.
“While there may be an element of profit taking driving markets lower today, I think a bigger contributing factor is the recent flare up in eastern Ukraine and the war of words now taking place between the U.S. and Russia,” said Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari.
“We’ve already seen on numerous occasions what impact this has had on the markets, with even the slightest hint of Russian intervention prompting a flight for safety among investors.”
Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday accused Russia of failing to live up to its commitments to ease the crisis in Ukraine. Kerry said bluntly that unless Moscow takes immediate steps to deescalate the situation, Washington will have no choice but to impose additional sanctions. In a separate event, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister said he feared a Russian invasion was imminent.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares fell 0.3 percent to close at 6,685.69 while Germany’s DAX fell 1.5 percent to 9,401.55. The CAC-40 in France shed 0.8 percent to 4,443.63.
Earlier in Asia, China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped 1 percent to 2,036.52 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1.4 percent to 22,238.06. Tokyo bucked the regional trend. Its Nikkei 225 added 0.2 percent to 14,429.26, rebounding after losing 1 percent a day earlier after talks between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Obama failed to produce a trade agreement.
In currency markets, trading was fairly muted, with the euro was flat at $1.3837. However, oil prices took a hit from the worries over Ukraine and a barrel of benchmark New York crude was down $1.17 at $100.77.
Investments thought to be less risky were among the few assets to rise Friday. Bond prices rose, pushing the yield on the 10-year Treasury note down to 2.66 percent from 2.68 percent Thursday. Gold rose $10.20, or 0.8 percent, to $1,300.80 an ounce.
Dividend-rich utility stocks also rose. The Dow Jones utility index, a basket of 15 utility stocks, rose 1 percent to 551.66, its highest level since December 2007.
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