Wall Street knocked lower by Ukraine tensions, Boeing crash

By Devik Jain and Bansari Mayur Kamdar

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes fell in choppy trade on Monday, as rising tensions over the Russia-Ukraine conflict weighed on megacap stocks and Boeing (NYSE:BA) shares fell after a 737-800 jet crashed in China.

Russia’s foreign ministry said it had summoned U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan to tell him that remarks by President Joe Biden about his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin had pushed bilateral ties to the brink of collapse.

Technology and consumer discretionary shares fell the most after a solid rally last week. Megacap growth names Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Inc, Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Meta Platforms were down between 0.7 and 3.5%.

Boeing’s 5.7% slide weighed the most on the blue-chip Dow after a China Eastern Airlines (NYSE:CEA) jet with 132 passengers crashed in the mountains of southern China.

U.S.-listed shares of China Eastern Airlines slumped about 8.2%. Parts suppliers Spirit AeroSystems (NYSE:SPR) Holdings Inc and Hexcel (NYSE:HXL) Corp were down 5.6% and 1.1%, respectively. Engine maker General Electric (NYSE:GE) Co also slipped 0.9%.

“The key is going to be getting the flight recorder, the black box and then from there determining what happened, but until then it is shoot first, ask questions later, and right now Boeing’s stock is taking it on the chin,” said Thomas Hayes, chairman at Great Hill Capital in New York.

Meanwhile, oil prices surged nearly 7% lifting energy shares, as Brent crude climbed over $114 a barrel as European Union nations considered joining the United States in a Russian oil embargo. [O/R]

Surging commodity prices have raised concerns about higher inflation pushing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates aggressively.

“Just keep your eye on oil and [Fed Chair] Powell, those are going to be the keys to the market today,” said Hayes.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell is due to speak at the National Association for Business Economics Conference at 1200 ET (1600 GMT), while other policymakers were set to speak through the week after the U.S. central bank charted a hawkish rate hike path.

At 10:14 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 170.38 points, or 0.49%, at 34,584.55, the S&P 500 was down 13.53 points, or 0.30%, at 4,449.59, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 133.35 points, or 0.96%, at 13,760.49.

Global shares started the week on a downbeat note as fighting raged in Ukraine and the Kremlin said peace talks had yet to yield any major breakthroughs.

Hopes of a peace deal coupled with a widely expected interest rate increase by the Fed had bolstered market sentiment last week, with the Wall Street’s three main indexes logging their biggest weekly percentage gains since early November 2020.

Among individual stocks, Alleghany (NYSE:Y) Corp surged 24.7% after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRKa) Inc struck an $11.6-billion deal to buy the owner of reinsurer TransRe. Berkshire shares added 2.3%.

Nielsen Holdings (NYSE:NLSN) slid 7.2% as it rejected an unsolicited bid from a private equity consortium that valued the TV ratings company at $9.13 billion.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.18-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.59-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 35 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 31 new highs and 22 new lows.