* Ukraine conflict continues; Russia seizes marine base
* Weak China data raises hopes for stimulus
* Nasdaq hit as Internet, biotech names tumble
* Dow off 0.4 pct; S&P 500 down 0.7 pct; Nasdaq off 1.7 pct (Updates to early afternoon)
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK (Frankfurt: HX6.F - news) , March 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell sharply onMonday, with the Nasdaq marking its biggest daily percentagedrop since early February as some of the market's recent bestperformers like technology and biotech shares led the way down.
Concerns that the crisis in Ukraine could escalate pushedtraders to drop some of the market's biggest trading favorites,taking the Nasdaq below its 50-day moving average in a sign ofweakening near-term momentum.
Almost 80 percent of the stocks traded on the Nasdaq werelower, while about two-thirds of New York Stock Exchange-listedshares fell. Eight of the 10 S&P 500 sectors slid for the day.
Netflix Inc (NasdaqGS: NFLX - news) was the S&P 500's biggest percentageloser, down 8.9 percent at $369.72, with fellow Internet namesFacebook Inc (NasdaqGS: FB - news) and TripAdvisor Inc (NasdaqGS: TRIP - news) close behind,both falling 5 percent. All three names had scored sharp gainsin 2013.
The Nasdaq biotechnology index, which jumped 66percent last year, fell 3.5 percent in its fourth straight dailydecline, a period over which the group has lost 9 percent. Amongspecific names, Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc (NasdaqGS: ALXN - news) dropped 6.1percent to $150.12.
"Biotech stocks have gone parabolic over the past fewmonths, so this is a necessary correction to that," said MarkD'Cruz, senior investment analyst at Key Private Bank inCleveland, Ohio. "A lot of that interest came from outsidetraditional biotech investors, who are now being scared off ...Biotechs really have to prove themselves this year, prove thattheir drugs can deliver."
Ukraine announced the evacuation of its troops from Crimea,essentially yielding the region to Russian forces, which seizeda Ukrainian marine base. While few U.S. companies have excessiveexposure to the region, investors are concerned about thepotential economic fallout from any escalation in tensions.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who has imposed personalsanctions against some of Russian President Vladimir Putin'spolitical and business allies, began crisis talks with hisEuropean allies over how to respond in the biggest East-Westconflict since the Cold War.
"The issue remains contained for the time being, but Obamawill try and garner support for more sanctions, which willultimately shape our view of how things can end up looking,"said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securitiesin New York. "This remains at the forefront of what we're payingattention to."
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 63.36points, or 0.39 percent, at 16,239.41. The Standard & Poor's 500Index was down 13.62 points, or 0.73 percent, at1,852.90. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 70.40points, or 1.65 percent, at 4,206.39.
Futures had been higher throughout the premarket session ashopes grew that China would take new stimulative measures tosupport its economy after data showed that the nation'smanufacturing contracted in the first quarter of 2014.
The Dow's losses were limited by a rise in Procter & GambleCo, a consumer staple that is considered a defensiveplay. That stock rose 2.2 percent to $79.57, snapping a four-daylosing streak.
In the latest snapshot of the U.S. economy, financial datafirm Markit said its preliminary read on March manufacturingactivity slowed after nearing a four-year high last month.Markit, however, said the rate of growth and the pace of hiringremained strong.
Herbalife Ltd said it would allow three morerepresentatives of billionaire investor Carl Icahn, thecompany's biggest shareholder, to join its board. Shares of thenutrition and weight-loss company jumped 7.2 percent to $53.10.
NU Skin Enterprises Inc (NYSE: NUS - news) soared 18.6 percent to$88.93 on heavy volume. Earlier, China fined the company morethan $500,000 for illegal product sales and misleading localconsumers, China's State Administration for Industry & Commercesaid in a statement on its website. NU Skin said last week thatit expected a fine. (Editing by Bernadette Baum, Nick Zieminski and Jan Paschal)
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