Investing.com - Tensions in Ukraine continued to escalate on Thursday and sent stocks falling in a selloff intensified by weak Chinese industrial production data.
At the close of U.S. trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.41%, the S&P 500 index fell 1.17%, while the Nasdaq Composite index fell 1.46%.
Russian troops reportedly amassing on the Crimean-Ukraine border spooked investors on Thursday and battered stock prices.
News reports that Russia is conducting new military exercises in the Crimea region of Ukraine sparked demand for safe-haven asset classes, the dollar and yen especially, bruised equities markets worldwide.
Tensions between Russia and the West have remained high ahead of Sunday''s referendum in Ukraine’s Crimea region, controlled by pro-Russian forces, on whether citizens there want to join Russia.
Leaders of the Group of Seven largest industrial nations warned Russia on Wednesday not to annex Crimea.
In a recent joint statement, the leaders said Russian annexation of Crimea "could have grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states."
Should Russia take the step, the G-7 said it would respond with further action "individually and collectively."
Soft Chinese data fueled the selloff as well.
Chinese industrial production rose 8.6% in the first two months of 2014, according to data released on Thursday, missing market expectations for a 9.5% increase, while Chinese retail sales rose by 11.8%, beneath market forecasts for a 13.5% gain.
Elsewhere in the U.S., the Commerce Department reported that U.S. retail sales rose 0.3% in February, ending two months of declines and better than market expectations for a 0.2% increase.
Core retail sales, which exclude automobile sales, also rose 0.3% last month, ahead of expectations for a 0.2% rise.
Separately, the Department of Labor said the number of individuals filing new claims for unemployment benefits in the U.S. fell by 9,000 to a three-month low of 315,000 last week.
Analysts had expected initial jobless claims to rise by 6,000 last week.
In corporate news, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts hiked its yearly outlook, which drew applause, while kitchenware retailer Williams-Sonoma forecast 2014 sales that beat expectations.
Online retailer Amazon.com raised the cost of its Prime membership, while financial services giant Goldman Sachs Group fell after S&P Capital IQ downgraded its shares to sell from buy.
Leading Dow Jones Industrial Average performers included Procter & Gamble, down 0.06%, AT&T, down 0.11%, and Nike, down 0.54%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average''s worst performers included Pfizer, down 2.70%, United Technologies, down 2.52%, and Visa, down 2.40%.
European indices, meanwhile, finished lower.
After the close of European trade, the EURO STOXX 50 fell 1.35%, France''s CAC 40 fell 1.29%, while Germany''s DAX 30 fell 1.86%. Meanwhile, in the U.K. the FTSE 100 fell 1.01%.
On Friday, the U.S. is to round up the week with data on producer price inflation and preliminary data from the University of Michigan on consumer sentiment.
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