US stocks drift lower in morning trading
The U.S. stock market slipped into the red in morning trading Friday, reversing small gains from earlier in the day. Investors were monitoring the crisis in Ukraine and the possibility of the West imposing sanctions on Russia next week.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped five points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,840 as of 11:23 a.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 46 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,062. The Nasdaq composite shed 17 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,243.
ROCKY WEEK: The three major indexes lost more than 1 percent on Thursday as growing worries about China's economy and rising tensions over Ukraine rattled investors. The slide wiped out the S&P 500 index's gain for the year.
CRIMEA QUESTION: Traders were monitoring discussions Friday between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the run-up to a referendum on Sunday in the Ukraine region of Crimea, where residents will vote on whether to break off from the rest of the country. If Crimea secedes, the U.S. and European Union plan to slap sanctions as early as Monday on Russian officials and businesses accused of escalating the crisis and undermining Ukraine's new government.
Jim Russell, senior equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management, said the market's expectations and pricing has begun to reflect the assumption that Crimea will end up part of Russia.
"What is not known is the extent to which economic sanctions will be levied and any kind of ancillary recourse from Russia regarding the economic sanctions," Russell said. "We think the markets are going to trade very nervously, probably with a downward bias."
RETAIL RESULTS: Aeropostale fell $1.09, or 14.9 percent, to $6.21 after the retailer reported a wider loss late Thursday. The operator of clothing stores for teenagers also warned of tough times ahead.
TUNING OUT: Liberty Media rose $9.19, or 7 percent, to $135.39. The company, which is controlled by billionaire John Malone, said late Thursday that it would drop its bid to buy the rest of the satellite radio provider Sirius XM.
SECTOR LOOK: Six of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index fell. Information technology led the decliners. Utilities posted the biggest gain.
EUROPE: Major European stock markets fell. London's FTSE-100 index fell 0.5 percent while Germany's DAX fell 0.7 percent. The CAC-40 in France was 1.3 percent lower. In Russia, the RTS index fell 1.4 percent. It's down 26 percent so far this year.
PRICE WATCH: The Labor Department said Friday that the prices companies are paid for goods and services fell slightly in February, the latest sign of tame inflation. The producer price index, a measure of prices before they reach shoppers, dropped 0.1 percent in February. It was the first slip since November.
BOND ACTION: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.63 percent from 2.65 percent as bond prices rose. The yield affects rates on mortgages and other consumer loans.