World stocks drop on Ukraine jitters, US earnings

Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — Global stock markets fell Monday amid renewed concerns about the crisis in Ukraine and forecasts of lower American corporate profits.

Investor sentiment was hit after Ukraine's government said Sunday it was sending troops to try to quash a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian and Western officials have accused Moscow of instigating the protests, saying the events echoed those in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia last month.

That has raised the prospect of more sanctions against Russia, possibly affecting the energy trade that is so valuable to both Russia and Europe.

In Europe, Russia's MICEX index suffered most, dropping 1.4 percent. Germany's DAX was down 0.6 percent to 9,263.14 and France's CAC-40 shed 0.4 percent to 4,347.87. They were not supported by data showing industrial production rose 0.2 percent in February. Though the rise was up from no growth in January, it is still relatively weak.

Britain's FTSE 100 dropped 0.3 percent to 6,539.95.

Earlier, Asian stock markets were muted, while Wall Street was expected to be sluggish on the open. Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average and the broader S&P 500 were both flat.

Investors have been cautious since U.S. markets dropped for a second day Friday due to anxiety that earnings growth was faltering.

Financial analysts expect earnings for companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 to drop 1.6 percent from a year earlier, according to FactSet, a financial data provider. That was a reversal from the start of the year, when they expected a jump of 4.3 percent.

"We believe the selling is not finished," said Bank of America Merrill Lynch in a report.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 shed 0.4 percent to 13,910.16 and Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 tumbled 1.3 percent to 5,358.9. China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index was little changed at 2,131.54 while Seoul's Kospi held steady at 1,997.02.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was the region's only major gainer, rising 0.2 percent to 23,048.40.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery was up 5 cents to $103.79 amid the Ukrainian tensions. The contract rose 34 cents Friday.

In currency markets, the dollar rose to 101.75 yen from 101.63 yen late Friday. The euro fell to $1.3826 from $1.3852.

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