● Standard & Poor’s 500: -1.17 percent to 1,846.35
● Dow Jones Industrial Average: -1.41 percent to 16,108.89
● NASDAQ: -1.46 percent to 4,260.42
Stocks on Wall Street opened Thursday’s trading session with momentum from better that expected retail sales data, as well as jobless figures from the previous week that fell to their lowest in 3 months. But the good news was quickly swept under the rug by an increasingly tense situation in Eastern Europe with only 3 days until Ukraine’s Crimean region will participate in a referendum on whether or not it will secede from the Ukraine to join its Russian neighbor.
Equities fell precipitously, squashing any sign of earlier gains as Western leaders threatened Russia with as-yet unspecified political and economic consequences if it proceeds with what many expect will be the annexation of a large swathe of Eastern Ukraine, and it is uncertain what, if anything, will be accomplished in London on Friday when US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
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Gold stocks benefitted from the throwback to Cold War-era geopolitical tensions on Thursday, with Barrick Gold (ABX) and Newmont Mining (NEM) among the day’s gainers, with both up around 2 percent by the bell.
Other stocks also withstood the day’s heavy selling activity, lead by Plug Power’s (PLUG) nearly 17 percent gain, spurred by the company’s release of earnings for the recently-ended fourth quarter which showed strong sales during the period. Small-cap biotech firm Chelsea Therapeutics International (CHTP) was also a standout, adding over 14 percent by the end of the session amid ongoing rumours of a possible acquisition.