Investing.com - U.S. stocks opened lower on Friday, as markets were eyeing the release of U.S. consumer sentiment data later in the day, while concerns over Ukraine and China continued to dampen sentiment.
During early U.S. trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.02%, the S&P 500 eased 0.08%, while the Nasdaq Composite index fell 0.18%.
Markets shrugged off official data showed that U.S. producer price inflation fell 0.1% in February, confounding expectations for a 0.2% rise, after a 0.2% increase the previous month.
Core producer price inflation, which excludes food, energy and trade, slipped 0.2% last month, compared to expectations for a 0.1% rise, after a 0.2% gain in January.
Investors remained cautious after Russia launched new military exercises near its border with Ukraine on Thursday, showing no sign of backing down on plans to annex Crimea.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said serious steps would be imposed by the U.S. and Europe if the referendum on Crimea joining Russia takes place on Sunday as planned.
Markets were also jittery after data on Thursday showed that Chinese industrial production rose 8.6% in the first two months of 2014, missing market expectations for an increase of 9.5%, while Chinese retail sales rose by a smaller-than-forecast 11.8% in the same period.
Retailer Aeropostale Inc. plunged 14.11% after it forecast a steeper loss than estimated late Thursday and agreed to borrow $150 million.
Also on the downside, General Electric dropped 0.43% after its North American credit card business filed with U.S. regulators for an initial public offering of common stock as part of GE''s efforts to reduce exposure to its financial businesses.
Oil and gas giant BP was down 0.04% after the Environmental Protection Agency granted it the right to again compete for U.S. contracts and for new leases in the Gulf of Mexico, where its massive 2010 oil spill had prompted regulators to bar it from new government business.
In the insurance sector, American International Group Inc. added 0.12% amid reports Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche and four other senior managers reportedly received cash bonuses that exceeded their targets last year.
Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were mixed to lower. The EURO STOXX 50 declined 0.69%, France’s CAC 40 retreated 0.64%, Germany''s DAX slid 0.31%, while Britain''s FTSE 100 fell 0.23%.
During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong''s Hang Seng Index tumbled 1%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index plunged 3.30%.
Later in the day, the U.S. was to release preliminary data from the University of Michigan on consumer sentiment.