U.S. stocks slipped on the first day of March as oil prices surged and investors continue to monitor the fighting between Russia and Ukraine.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 467 points, or 1.4%. The S&P 500 was off by 0.9% and the Nasdaq Composite slid 0.5%.
The decline in stocks came as satellite cameras captured a convoy of Russian military vehicles apparently on its way to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
The continued aggression from Russia pushed energy prices higher. West Texas Intermediate crude futures jumped 5% on Tuesday morning, breaking above $104 per barrel and hitting its highest level in seven years.
Wheat prices also surged on Tuesday. The rise in commodity prices added to inflation fears in the U.S. and Europe.
“Volatility is elevated as a wall-of-worry continues to grow. Geopolitical uncertainty, inflation, rising interest rates and technical price-trend deterioration are weighing on sentiment and stock prices,” U.S. Bank Wealth Management chief equity strategist Terry Sandven said in a note to clients.
Financial stocks were some of the biggest losers on Tuesday, with Bank of America down 1.9%, Citigroup off 1.8% and Charles Schwab lower by 3%. The lower bond yields could potentially take a bite out of bank profits, while the conflict in Eastern Europe and sanctions on Russia have some traders worried about disruption in credit markets.
Though most U.S. banks have little direct exposure to Russian companies, it is unclear how the sanctions on the Russian financial system will impact European banks and, in turn, the U.S., CFRA director of equity research Ken Leon said on “Squawk Box.”
“It’s the correspondent banking relations through Europe, that do quite a bit of loan activity — Italian banks, French banks, Austrian — with Russia,” Leon said.
Some of the early stock losses were offset by strong Target earnings, as the big box retailer posted profit of $3.19 a share that was well ahead of Wall Street estimates. Shares jumped nearly 12%.
Cybersecurity stocks outperformed, helping boost the Nasdaq. Shares of Crowdstrike rose more than 4%. Other software stocks also rose, helping to trim heavy losses for the sector in recent months.
Treasury yields were mostly lower, with the benchmark 10-year note most recently at 1.72%. Yields move opposite prices, so the decline represents a rush into safe-haven bonds amid the stock market turmoil.
Ukrainian and Russian officials wrapped up a critical round of talks Monday, and heavy sanctions from the U.S. and its allies are hitting the Russian economy and central bank. Major companies are abiding by the sanctions from the U.S. and its allies, with Mastercard and Visa blocking Russian financial institutions from their networks.
The VanEck Russia ETF, which sank 30% on Monday even as markets in that country were closed, was down another 7% on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the central bank of Russia more than doubled its key interest rate on Monday, as the ruble plummeted against the U.S. dollar.
In a volatile session Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost nearly 170 points. The S&P 500 dropped 0.24% and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.4%.
JPMorgan’s Marko Kolanovic said Monday the worst of the Russia-Ukraine sell-off might be over.
“The Russia/Ukraine crisis will continue to produce market volatility, but the direct impact on corporate earnings should be small. Indirect risks are more substantial, given effects of higher commodity prices on inflation, growth, and consumers,” Kolanovic said in a Monday afternoon note. “However, one silver lining is that the crisis forced a dovish reassessment of the Fed by the market.”
Investors are also gearing up to hear from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell in his semiannual hearing at House Committee on Financial Services, which begins on Wednesday.
Monday also marked the final trading day of February. The Dow lost 3.5% for the month. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq fell 3.1% and 3.4%, respectively.
As corporate earnings season winds down, cloud giant Salesforce reports results after the close.
On the economic front, construction spending data for January came in well above expectations, while purchasing manager’s index readings from ISM and Markit were both roughly in line with estimates.
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