Wall St ends lower on jitters over upcoming Crimea vote
Wall Street ended lower with all three major stock indexes down for the week, as concerns over tensions between Ukraine and Russia escalated ahead of a referendum in Crimea this weekend.
The S&P 500 ended below a key technical support level of 1,850 for the second day. The index also ended down 2 percent for the week, its biggest weekly loss since late January.
Moscow shipped more troops and armor into Crimea and repeated its threat to invade other parts of Ukraine in response to violence in Donetsk on Thursday night despite Western demands to pull back.
Global equity markets were pressured, while gold and the yen strengthened as traders flocked into the safe-haven assets. The CBOE Volatility index VIX, Wall Street's so-called fear gauge, rose 9.9 percent to 17.82.
A key emerging market exchange-traded fund, the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF, gained 0.5 percent to $38.40 after falling nearly 2 percent in the previous session.
Following the recent selloff in emerging markets, some market participants believe now is the time to get into emerging market equities, but analysts are wary.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 43.22 points or 0.27 percent, to 16,065.67, the S&P 500 lost 5.21 points or 0.28 percent, to 1,841.13 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 15.023 points or 0.35 percent, to 4,245.396.
For the week, the Dow fell 2.35 percent, the S&P dropped 1.97 percent and the Nasdaq lost 2.1 percent.
In economic news, producer prices fell 0.1 percent in February, dragged down by falling costs for services, offering little sign of inflation pressures. US consumer sentiment weakened in early March as an unusually harsh winter appeared to dim views on the economy's prospects.
European shares slid lower. The pan-European equity index closed down to its lowest level in more than a month.
The uncertainty over Crimea, after Russia effectively occupied the region following the ousting in Kiev of former pro-Moscow Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, also caused a spike in volatility in equity markets.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which rose 16 percent in 2013, closed down by 0.7 percent at 1,284.32 points - marking its lowest level since early February. The index also fell 3.2 percent over the week - marking its worst weekly loss since late January.
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index also fell 0.5 percent to 3,004.64 points while the Euro STOXX 50 Volatility Index - a gauge of investors' fears - surged 5.1 percent to its highest level since early February.
Latin American stocks also fell, with Mexico's IPC stock index down 0.2 percent.
Spot gold rose as much as 1.4 percent to its highest level since Sept. 9 at $1,387.90 an ounce early in the session before it later pared gains.
In the oil market, Brent rose more than $1 a barrel ahead of the planned Crimea referendum.
The Brent crude oil contract for April delivery, which expired Friday, settled $1.18 higher at $108.57. The May contract, which will become the front month contract on Monday, settled $1.29 higher at $108.21.
Even so, Brent ended lower for a third straight week.