Wall Street retreats for second day as Ukraine worries weigh

Tensions are rising again regarding Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, dragging sentiment down.

The major US stock index benchmarks have given up their earlier gains, sliding into the red over concerns that the crisis in Ukraine may be about to escalate.

Ukraine’s interior minister Arsen Avakov said the country may mobilise tens of thousands in order to protect the integrity of its territory, while US Secretary of State John Kerry has turned down the offer of a meeting with President Putin unless a list of unlikely-to-be-agreed demands are met by Russia.

By early afternoon in New York, the Dow Jones was down 0.23% or 38 points at 16,380 and the S&P 500 was off by 0.41% at 1869.4. These are not major moves, being of the same magnitude of the modest gains made in morning trading on Wall Street, and are not necessarily indicative of risk appetite drying up, but there are signs of money flowing toward assets viewed as safer.

Gold is up a strong 0.71% and silver is in positive territory for the day, while the yen has strengthened moderately against both the US dollar and the euro despite zero surprises coming out of the Bank of Japan policy meeting.

US macrodata has been relatively thin again today, with wholesale inventories and the monthly job openings survey from the US Labor Department being the most noteworthy items, neither of which carry a large amount of influence on the market nor are particularly timely. Wholesale inventories showed a jump of 0.6% in January while sales plummeted, which may easily be the result of the weather hampering deliveries. The job openings report showed little change in labour market conditions in January from December.

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