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Stocks Change Course, Drop as Obama Comments Raise Ukraine Fears

 / Updated  / Source: CNBC.com

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Stocks slid on Wednesday, with benchmark indexes failing to maintain a second day of gains, after President Obama cautioned against complacency on Russian moves in Ukraine.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average changed course after morning gains and ended the day unofficially 98 points lower. The S&P 500 lost 13 points and the Nasdaq shed 60 points, or 1.43 percent as tech stocks fell.

"The statement by President Obama with regard to perhaps stiffening sanctions being applied to Russia" prompted equities to erase gains and turn lower, said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Ukraine and the International Monetary Fund held bailout discussions Wednesday as the United States and European allies cautioned that they would take further steps if Russia escalates the crisis after annexing Crimea.

Speaking in Brussels, Obama said Russia's actions had to be condemned.

"The geopolitical tensions persist, given that anytime you get a spark it's enough to give investors pause, especially when the U.S. equity market is fully valued, so anything less than good gives some trouble to market participants between valuations being full but still being the best game in town," said Luschini.

Stocks had risen in the morning on signs the economy is shaking off some of its winter gloom. The Commerce Department said durable goods orders rose 2.2 percent as demand increased almost across the board, ending two consecutive months of declines.

Shares of Facebook fell nearly 7 percent after the company acquired Oculus VR, which makes virtual-reality headsets. King Digital Entertainment slumped over 15 percent in its first day as a publicly traded company, with the maker of the mobile game "Candy Crush" pricing its shares at $22.50 Tuesday.

The dollar gained against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners and the 10-year Treasury yield fell 5 basis point to 2.694 percent.

Crude-oil futures for May delivery increased by $1.07 to $100.26 a barrel; gold futures for April delivery fell $8.00 to $1,303.40 an ounce.

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