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U.S. equity markets pulled back sharply in late-afternoon action as traders cashed in on gains after a solid month and fretted about the unraveling situation in Ukraine.
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As of 3:18 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 15.6 points, or 0.1%, to 16257, the S&P 500 dropped 1.8 points, or 0.1%, to 1852 and the Nasdaq Composite declined 26.9 points, or 0.62%, to 4292.
The markets posted strong gains throughout much of the day, with the S&P 500 hitting a new intra-day high. However, that momentum came to a halt in the 2:00 p.m. ET-hour.
Michael Block, chief strategist at Rhino Trading Partners, pinned the sharp fall on rising tension in Ukraine. Indeed, a headline crossed from AFP that Russia sent 2,000 troops into Crimea, a Russian-leaning portion of embattled Ukraine.
"The reality of this ugly situation in the Crimea is dovetailing with the end to a nice month for longs and given the run up, folks are parking the bus," he said. "That’s it really."
Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, echoed those remarks, although he noted the euro, which has been a key indicator of tension there, remained near session highs. He also pointed to a roughly 0.75% drop in Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares and a pullback in Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) as indicative of traders taking money off the table.
A reading on consumer sentiment from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan rose slightly in late February to 81.6 from 81.2 earlier in the month, topping estimates of 81.3.
The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago said its gauge of manufacturing in the U.S. Midwest rose to 59.8 in February, compared to 59.6 the month prior, and higher than the 57 Wall Street anticipated. Readings above 50 point to expansion, those below indicate contraction.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors reported contracts to buy previously-owned homes rose 0.1% in January, lower than the 2% increase Wall Street anticipated. Meanwhile, sales were down 9% from the same period the year prior.
A report from the Commerce Department at 8:30 a.m. ET showed the U.S. economy grew at an annual pace of 2.4% in the fourth quarter, down sharply from a previous reading of 3.2%.
In corporate news, a German court chucked a $2 billion patent-infringement lawsuit that was filed against tech giant Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Jos. A. Bank (NASDAQ:JOSB) said it would meet with Men's Wearhouse (NYSE:MW) over its buyout offer.
Mt. Gox, which was once one of the largest bitcoin exchanges, filed for bankruptcy on Friday, saying it lost some half-a-billion dollars in people's holdings.
Elsewhere, U.S. crude oil futures fell by 2 cents, or 0.02%, to $102.38 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.43% to $2.75 a gallon. Gold fell slightly to $1,332 a troy ounce.