NEW YORK - U.S. stocks sank, tracking a global selloff in equities, as Russia’s threat to invade Ukraine sent investors searching for havens.
General Electric Co. and Caterpillar Inc. each plunged 1.2 percent to pace declines among large industrial shares. The Market Vectors Russia ETF tracking companies from Gazprom OAO to OAO Lukoil dropped 6.4 percent. Yandex NV, a U.S.-listed online search engine operating in Russia, slumped 10 percent. Newmont Mining Corp., the largest U.S. producer of gold, jumped 2.8 percent.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.6 percent to 1,848.76 at 9:49 a.m. in New York. The gauge closed at a record on Feb. 28. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 131.04 points, or 0.8 percent, to 16,190.67. Trading in S&P 500 stocks was 11 percent above the 30-day average at this time of day.
“We never know what will happen with Russia and this always makes people nervous,” said Michael Morris, head of equities at Mitsubishi UFJ Asset Management in London. “You have a president that is trying to expand Russia’s global political powers but the country may not have the capacity for this fight. It’s too soon to know what the outcome might be but I’m not at all surprised to see the markets down today.”
The tensions sent stocks tumbling around the world, with the MSCI All-Country World Index sliding 0.8 percent. Russian stocks had their biggest decline in five years and the Europe Stoxx 600 plunged 2 percent, its biggest slide in five weeks. Emerging-market stocks dropped 1.5 percent. Gold soared 2 percent and Treasuries rallied.
Ukraine mobilized its army and called for foreign observers after Russian President Vladimir Putin got approval to use military force in Ukraine. Groups of as many as 100 Russian soldiers attacked Ukrainian army units in Crimea, where ethnic Russians comprise the majority, the border guard service said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to Kiev Monday after warning of possible sanctions against Russia. European Union foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting today, while the Group of Seven nations suspended planning for the Group of Eight summit in Russia in June.
“The Ukraine news is troubling, but there are always global risks and short-term fluctuations because of these risks,” Karyn Cavanaugh, a market strategist at ING U.S.Investment Management in New York, said in a phone interview. Her firm oversees about $200 billion. “I see this being short-term unless it escalates. If we do see some market gyrations and volatility, it could be a buying opportunity.”
The geopolitical tension comes after the S&P 500 rose 4.3 percent in February, the most since October, to end the month at a record 1,859.45. Investors have been speculating that recent weakness in data from housing to jobs was caused by inclement weather and that the Federal Reserve will continue to support the economy.