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Posted: March 3, 2014 11:15 a.m.

Stocks fall as Ukraine tensions rise; Gold gains

NEW YORK (AP) — Global stocks fell sharply on rising tension over Russia's military advance into Ukraine and the threat of possible sanctions by Western governments. Treasurys and gold prices rose as investors bought safer assets.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 12 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,847 as of 11 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 135 points, or 0.8 percent, to 16,184. The Nasdaq composite dropped 32 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,275.

WORLD MARKETS: Markets also fell in Europe. Germany's DAX sank 3 percent, to 9,424. Britain's FTSE 100 dropped 1.4 percent, to 6,720 and Russia's benchmark stock index plunged 12 percent, to 1,115.

SAFETY FIRST: Gold and bond prices rose as investors put money into safer assets. The price of gold gained $31.20, or 2.4 percent, to $1,352.60. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.62 percent from 2.65 percent late Friday.

THE REACTION: Stock markets are reacting exactly as one would expect them to in a time of heightened global political tensions, said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated investors. Investors are selling riskier assets like stocks and buying safer securities like U.S. Treasurys and gold.

"We just have no way of knowing how this is going to play out," Orlando said. "It's a very uncertain situation and the market is demonstrating its unhappiness with that."

ENERGY PRICES: The price of crude oil climbed $2.62, or 2.5 percent, to $104.64 a barrel following warnings by Washington and other governments that Russia, a major oil exporter, might face sanctions after it seized control of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. The energy sector was the only one of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 to advance.

CONFIDENCE AT HOME: The tensions in the Ukraine outweighed positive reports on the U.S. economy. U.S. manufacturing expanded at faster pace in February as new orders and stockpiling rose.

Americans spent more in January, but the increase came from a surge in spending on heating bills during the harsh winter. Spending in areas such as autos and clothing declined. Spending rose 0.4 percent in January after a 0.1 percent gain in December the Commerce Department said Monday. The December figure was revised down from a 0.4 percent increase.

IT'S COLD OUTSIDE: Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Olive Garden, slumped $2.26, or 4.4 percent, to $48.80 after the restaurant operator said that exceptionally rough winter weather reduced earnings in its latest quarter by about 7 cents per share. Expenses related to the company's plan to split off its Red Lobster chain also hurt earnings.

 
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