Geopolitical Strife, More Hawkish Fed Spook Wall Street

By MarketsFOXBusiness

FOX Business: Capitalism Lives Here

Wall Street capped the day near session lows after relatively hawkish Fed commentary and mounting geopolitical turmoil concerned traders.

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Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 89.8 points, or 0.56%, to 16041, the S&P 500 declined 12 points, or 0.65%, to 1829 and the Nasdaq Composite slumped 34.8 points, or 0.82%, to 4238.

The global picture is getting messy, and it's beginning to show up again in the financial markets.

Bloody battles between protestors who oppose President Viktor Yanukovich and police killed at least 25 people in Ukraine, according to news reports. The move has sent the cost to insure the country's debt rising, and presents a fresh worry on the European front. Meanwhile, the Russian ruble plunged to a fresh record low against the euro after the country decided to buy-up foreign currencies for its reserve fund, where it keeps extra energy revenue, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In economic news, the Commerce Department said starts of new housing construction dropped 16% in January to an annual rate of 880,000 units, the biggest drop since February 2011. Economists were expecting a rate of 950,000 units.

Economists have pointed to bad weather as a major, if not temporary, issue for essentially every segment of the economy, from homebuilders to retailers.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported prices for finished goods rose 0.2% in January. Excluding the food and energy components, prices also rose 0.2%. Labor is using a revamped method for calculating prices, one economists say provides a broader look at prices across the economy.

Wall Street traders appeared to shrug off the latest round of FOMC minutes. Members of the Federal Reserve’s policy-setting board agreed unanimously that the central bank should continue cutting the pace of asset purchases in ‘measured steps’ as long as the economy continues to grow as expected. However, ‘a few’ participants said they could see hiking the Fed’s benchmark interest rate ‘relatively soon,’ while others disagreed.

Elsewhere, U.S. crude oil futures climbed 67 cents, or 0.65%, to $103.10, extending a rally on the back of the growing geopolitical uncertainty. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline increased 0.05% to $2.83 a gallon. Gold fell $6.90, or 0.52%, to $1,317 a troy ounce.

In corporate news, Herbalife (NYSE:HLF) posted better-than-expected quarterly results and a full-year outlook that bracketed Wall Street's view after the bell Tuesday. The nutrition company has been fighting claims from Perhsing Square's Bill Ackman for more than a year that it is a "pyramid scheme."

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