U.S. stocks slide on Ukraine fears, weak U.S. data; Dow drops 0.27%

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Investing.com - Escalating tensions in Ukraine coupled with soft U.S. consumer sentiment and wholesale pricing data sent U.S. stocks falling on Friday.

At the close of U.S. trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.27%, the S&P 500 index fell 0.28%, while the Nasdaq Composite index fell 0.35%.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary consumer sentiment index fell to 79.9 for March from 81.6 in February, defying market expectations for a rise to 82.0.

Also on Friday, data revealed that the U.S. producer price index 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 and energy, slipped 0.2% last month, compared to expectations for a 0.1% rise, after a 0.2% gain in January.

Meanwhile, investors remained cautious after Russia launched new military exercises near its border with Ukraine, showing no sign of backing down on plans to annex Crimea.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. and Europe should take steps if a referendum on Crimea joining Russia takes place on Sunday as planned.

Markets also remained on edge 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.

Leading Dow Jones Industrial Average performers included Boeing, up 1.01%, Home Depot, up 0.72%, and Coca-Cola, up 0.53%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average's worst performers included UnitedHealth, down 1.68%, JPMorgan, down 1.07%, and IBM, down 0.88%.

European indices, meanwhile, finished largely lower.

After the close of European trade, the EURO STOXX 50 fell 0.53%, France's CAC 40 fell 0.80%, while Germany's DAX 30 rose 0.43%. Meanwhile, in the U.K. the FTSE 100 fell 0.40%.

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