- Ukraine concerns weigh on stocks ahead of referendum
- Consumer confidence misses forecasts
- Coach gains on M&A rumours
- Liberty Media drops Sirius XM bid
Dow Jones: 0.17%
S&P 500: 0.20%
US stock markets opened tentatively on Friday following the worst sell-off in five weeks as investors turned cautious ahead of the weekend amid lingering concerns about the continuing crisis in Ukraine.
The S&P 500
dropped 1.2% to 1,846.34 on Thursday, turning negative for the year-to-date, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.4%, with both registering their biggest declines since February 3rd.
Stocks edged higher this morning despite the University of Michigan's preliminary reading on consumer confidence slipping to 79.9 in March, down from 81.6 in the month before and under the consensus forecast of 82. The expectations sub-index fell to 69.4 from 72.7 (consensus: 73).
In other economic news, producer prices fell by 0.1% month-on-month in February after a rise of 0.2% in the month before (consensus: 0.2%).
Concerns over an economic slowdown in China were also dampening sentiment on global markets today as analysts from JPMorgan, Bank of America, UBS and Nomura moved to lower their growth forecasts for this year. The downgrades came after data yesterday showed that industrial production, retail sales and fixed asset investments growth all eased last month.
Geopolitical tensions in Ukraine have escalated on the back of reports that Moscow is stepping up its military presence on the country's borders ahead of the Crimea referendum on Sunday that could see the region vote to become part of the Russian Federation.
However, the US and Europe have warned Russia that "very serious" steps would be taken, including sanctions, if it attempts to annex Crimea given that the move would be unconstitutional.
Investors were keeping a close eye on a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in London today.
Coach gains on M&A rumours
Luxury handbag maker Coach Inc was making decent gains after the opening bell amid unconfirmed market chatter that the group could be susceptible to a takeover offer at around $57-59 a share, compared with last night's closing price of around $48.
Liberty Media surged after dropping plans to acquire the rest of satellite radio business Sirius XM it does not already own.
Retail firm Aeropostale fell 12% early on after reporting a worse-than-expected loss and a 16% fall in sales in the fourth quarter.
US yields flat, crude rises
US 10-year Treasury yields were flat at 2.65%.
Front month West Texas crude futures were up 0.57% at $98.76 a barrel on the NYMEX.