The major averages were at two-week lows as investors flocked to safe-havens amid rising geopolitical risks from Syria and North Korea.
Shrugging off upbeat job market data, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 fell below their 50-day moving averages for the first time in nearly five months with the financial and technology sectors taking the heaviest losses.
Accordingly, safe-havens were outperforming with gold at a 5-month high, and the 10-year Treasury yield down nearly six basis points.
The catalyst for Tuesday's round of flight-to-safety was more saber-rattling from North Korea, whose leader threatened a nuclear strike against the U.S. as a naval strike force moves towards the Korean peninsula. Investors were also nervously watching developments surrounding Syria as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson head to Russia to meet with Foreign Secretary Sergey Lavrov.
Economic data briefly put a dent in selling pressure. Job openings increased to 5.743 million in February from a revised 5.625 million, beating estimates for a gain to 5.655 million.
European equities were mixed with the Euro-Stoxx index fractionally higher, but other Euro-zone bourses lower in sympathy with the U.S., and ahead of a contentious election in France that could give voters the choice between two extremes that includes anti-EU candidate Marine Le Pen, and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.
In corporate news, the fallout from United's ( UAL ) forced removal of a passenger Sunday continues to reverberate after the company's CEO issued a "tone-deaf" email, vindicating United staff and calling the passenger "disruptive and belligerent." Shares were down nearly 3%, wiping as much as $675 million off the company's market cap.
RetailMeNot ( SALE ) agreed to be acquired by Harland Clarke for $11.60 per share, driving up shares by more than 50%.
Crude oil was down $0.24 to $52.84 per barrel. Natural gas was down $0.08 to $3.15 per 1 million BTU. Gold was up $19.60 to $1,273.40 an ounce, while silver was up $0.35 to $18.27 an ounce. Copper was unchanged at $2.61 per pound.
Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was down 0.42% to $11.09 with the United States Natural Gas Fund was down 2.67% to $7.47. Amongst precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was up 2.83% to 24.32 while SPDR Gold Shares were up 1.31% to $121.03. The iShares Silver Trust was up 1.67% to $17.28.
Here's where the markets stand at mid-day:
NYSE Composite Index was down 51.03 points (-0.45%) to 11,413.31
Dow Jones Industrial Index was down 91.73 points (-0.46%) to 20,562.69
S&P 500 was down 14.98 points (-0.64%) to 2,342.14
Nasdaq Composite Index was down 43.38 points (-0.74%) to 5,837.30
FTSE 100 was up 16.56 points (+0.23%) to 7,365.50
DAX was down 61.17 points (-0.50%) to 12,139.35
CAC 40 was down 5.59 points (-0.11%) to 5,101.86
Nikkei 225 was down 50.01 points (-0.27%) to 18,747.87
Hang Seng Index was down 173.72 points (-0.72%) to 24,088.46
Shanghai China Composite Index was up 19.57 points (+0.60%) to 3,288.97
NYSE SECTOR INDICES
NYSE Energy Sector Index was down 59.14 points (-0.54%) to 10,927.18
NYSE Financial Sector Index was down 37.00 points (-0.52%) to 7,120.16
NYSE Healthcare Sector Index was down 40.41 points (-0.32%) to 12,642.07
(+) SALE (+49.03%) To be acquired by Harland Clarke for $11.60 per share
(+) TNXP (+13.99%) FDA is considering allowing single study for post-traumatic stress disorder treatment
(+) CBIO (+3.53%) Reached key milestone in subcutaneous factor IX program
(-) CYTX (-35.47%) Launches public offering of common stock
(-) AFSI (-23.05%) SEC probe on accounting practices said to feature secret recordings
(-) NAKD (-12.18%) Amends merger agreement with Bendon, sells 2.2 million shares at $2.51 per share
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