U.S. stocks were down sharply Tuesday after as investors reacted to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to order troops to breakaway regions of Ukraine, escalating tensions and raising fears of a full-scale invasion.
Markets in the U.S. were closed Monday in observance of the Presidents Day holiday, with trade on Tuesday providing the first opportunity for investors to react to developments in Eastern Europe.
How are stock-index futures performing?
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -1.85% dropped 521 points, or 1.5%, at 33,558.
- The S&P 500 SPX, -1.64% fell 54 points, or 1.2%, to 4,295.
- The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -1.96% shed 203 points, or 1.5%, to about 13,345.
What’s driving the market?
Sentiment has soured in the U.S. stock market after Putin ordered forces Monday into separatist regions of eastern Ukraine, raising fears that an invasion was about to materialize.
“Military confrontations are scary,” but the market seems to believe the confrontation over Ukraine will be “limited,” said Jeffrey Kleintop, chief global investment strategist at Charles Schwab, in a phone interview Tuesday. “The market reaction is mild relative to a lot of the fears” over potential spillover effects, such as “fears of World War III” or a recession, he said.
The White House said President Joe Biden will issue an executive order that “will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons’’ in those areas of eastern Ukraine where Russia sent troops. A further round of sanctions against Moscow were also expected.
Russia is a “very small” trading partner with the U.S., said Kleintop.
Meanwhile, officials from the European Union referred to Putin’s latest moves, including the recognition of the independence of the Russian separatist Donetsk and Luhansk regions’ independence, as “a blatant violation of international law.” And Germany took steps to halt certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that’s set to carry natural gas from Russia to Western Europe.
“European leaders might feel compelled to cut off imports of natural gas and oil from Russia, despite the very serious economic pain which this would entail,” said David Kelly, chief global strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, in a note Tuesday. “Putin could, of course, turn off the energy tap himself in reaction to Western sanctions.”
“However, in either case, the long-term consequences for Russia would be very severe as Europeans would likely, belatedly, resolve to never again make themselves energy dependent on the whims of a Russian leader,” according to Kelly.
Stock-index futures plunged overnight in reaction to the Russian moves but steadied somewhat ahead of Tuesday’s opening bell. Equities began the day lower, but saw seen choppy price action in morning trade, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite moving between gains and losses before extending their decline in afternoon activity.
While Putin’s actions have escalated tensions, the move so far have fallen short of the sort of full-scale invasion that remains the biggest potential worry for investors, said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager at Globalt, in a phone interview.
Oil prices jumped but have pulled back from highs, while haven-related buying of Treasurys faded, allowing yields to edge higher.
“What we’re seeing is a fairly muted reaction,” Martin said. “At this point it’s back to things like what’s happening with inflation and what do we think the Fed is going to do with regard to that.”
Stocks appeared to find support in early trading after a pair of surveys of purchasing managers showed private-sector activity in the U.S. economy picked up last month as the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus faded.
A “flash” index of activity by service-oriented companies jumped to 57.5 this month from an 18-month low of 51.1 in January, IHS Markit said. A similar gauge of manufacturers rose to 52.5 in February from 50.5.
Which companies are in focus?
- Home Depot Inc. HD, -9.71% reported fiscal fourth-quarter profit and sales that rose above expectations and announced a 15% increase in its dividend. Shares of the home-improvement retail giant fell about 9%.
- Shares of department-store retailer Macy’s Inc. M, -5.51% declined about 3% after the department store retailer reported fourth-quarter earnings that beat expectations and announced a dividend hike.
What are other assets doing?
- The yield on the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, 1.923% was little changed at 1.93%. Yields and debt prices move opposite each other.
- The ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, -0.02%, a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was down 0.1%.
- Bitcoin BTCUSD, +1.36% rose 1.5% to around $37,759.
- Oil futures rose, with the U.S. benchmark CL00, +1.72% up 2% at $93 a barrel, while gold GC00, +0.25% was up about 0.3% at nearly $1,906 an ounce.
- The Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP, +0.07% closed about 0.1% higher, while London’s FTSE 100 UKX, +0.13% rose 0.1%.
- Equities fell sharply in Asia, with the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, -0.96% dropping 1%, the Hang Seng Index HSI, -2.69% falling 2.7% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 NIK, -1.71% giving up 1.7%.
––Mark DeCambre contributed to this article.