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S&P 500 falls on Thursday as stocks resume their downward move from Russia-Ukraine war

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Stocks fell Thursday after failed peace talks between Ukraine and Russia spooked investors about how the geopolitical conflict could impact global growth.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 200 points, after rallying more than 650 points in the previous session. The S&P 500 shed 0.6%. The technology-focused Nasdaq Composite was 1% lower, dragged down by losses in Apple and Meta Platforms.

Negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers ended with little progress on matters including a cease-fire or a safe passage for civilians trying to flee the besieged city of Mariupol.

Markets have been tied closely to the conflict and have been inversely correlated with energy prices, which have been on a tear higher during the Russia-Ukraine war. Since Feb. 24 — when Russia invaded Ukraine — West Texas Intermediate crude have risen more than 14%, while Brent crude oil is up 15.4% in that time.

Oil prices have cooled off in the past two sessions, however. On Wednesday, WTI and Brent sliding more than 12% and 13%. WTI fell again Thursday to around $106 per barrel, while Brent slid 1% to near $109 per barrel.

“The violent gyrations of the market seem completely attached to Ukraine-Russia peace talks and the subsequent volatility of energy costs,” said Timothy Lesko, senior wealth advisor at Mariner Wealth Advisors. “The fall in commodity prices [Wednesday} seemed to trigger a relief rally that is unwinding a bit as peace talks seemed fruitless.”

Energy stocks Chevron and Exxon Mobil rose 1.9% and 2.6%, respectively.

Other commodities that have seen significant rallies since the war in Ukraine, that pulled back Wednesday, where higher again on Thursday. Silver and gold rose, as investors worry about the impact of high prices on economic growth.

Amazon shares jumped 5% after the company announced a 20-for-1 stock split and $10 billion buyback. CrowdStrike rallied 14% following an earnings beat and raising its outlook.

Elsewhere in tech was a sea of red. Zoom Video fell more than 7% and Microsoft dipped 2%. Apple and Meta Platforms fell 3% each. Tesla ticked 4% lower.

Goldman Sachs ticked 2% lower after announcing it is shuttering its Russia business, becoming one of the first major global investment banks to do so after the country invaded its neighbor Ukraine last month.

The consumer price index, a key inflation gauge, showed a wide-ranging basket of goods and services increased 7.9% in February, a fresh 40-year high. This was a touch higher than the estimate of 7.8% for the year, according to economists surveyed by Dow Jones.

On a month-over-month basis, the CPI gain was 0.8%, compared to the estimate of 0.7% for the month.

“The inflation situation is getting worse, not better. Household staples are becoming more and more expensive, crowding out spending on discretionary categories and delaying the spending reallocation back to services. And while gas prices explain much of the story, food and housing prices were also key drivers in February,” said John Leer, Morning Consult’s chief economist.

“Unfortunately the war in Ukraine will make it more difficult to get inflation under control. Gas and energy prices continue to rise, wheat prices are through the roof and supply chains remain in chaos,” Leer added.

The U.S. 10-year Treasury yield broke above 2% for the first time since Feb. 25.

Traders also weighed the European Central Bank’s decision to unwind stimulus measures sooner than expected. The bank said Thursday it will end its bond-buying program in the third quarter of this year, if the economic data allows for it.

The ECB’s decision comes ahead of next week’s Federal Reserve meeting where the central bank is expected to raise rates.

Wall Street was coming off a strong session, which saw the S&P 500 notch its biggest one-day jump since June 2020. The Nasdaq Composite experienced its best day since November 2020.

“It is somewhat typical of a high volatility environment where you can get just wicked swings in both directions,” said Liz Ann Sonders, Charles Schwab chief investment strategist. “A relief rally is probably the best way to describe what happened in the markets. … It doesn’t surprise me to see a very sharp countertrend move.”

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