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Ukraine tensions pull US stocks modestly lower

US stocks fell modestly on Thursday (Aug 28) as rising fears about renewed tensions between Ukraine and Russia outweighed a batch of encouraging US economic data.

NEW YORK: US stocks fell modestly on Thursday (Aug 28) as rising fears about renewed tensions between Ukraine and Russia outweighed a batch of encouraging US economic data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 42.44 points (0.25 percent) to 17,079.57, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite dropped 11.93 points (0.26 percent) to 4,557.69. The broad-market S&P 500 pulled back from Wednesday's record close, shedding 3.38 points (0.17 percent) at 1,996.74.

The indices finished off their lows of the morning, when shares were pressured by news that Russian forces were inside Ukraine helping support pro-Kremlin separatists who have been fighting against Kiev's rule since April. NATO said at least 1,000 Russian troops were on the ground in Ukraine. Moscow insisted none of its soldiers were on Ukrainian soil.

Trading volumes were thin, with just 479 million shares changing hands at the NYSE floor, the lowest tally of the year, according to Briefing.com. "The lack of activity reflected the preference to stick to the sidelines ahead of a three-day weekend that could bring new developments on the geopolitical front," it said.

The Ukraine tensions cast a cloud on positive economic news. The Commerce Department said the US economy expanded at a 4.2 percent annual rate in the second quarter, revising upward its 4.0 percent July estimate.

New claims for unemployment insurance benefits, a sign of the pace of layoffs, improved, and pending home sales climbed in July to their highest level in almost a year.

Dow component JPMorgan Chase dropped 0.7 percent. The largest US bank by assets said it was cooperating with the FBI in an investigation of a cyber-attack against several US financial institutions.

Credit-card company Visa was the largest decliner on the Dow, falling 1.2 percent. GlaxoSmithKline gained 0.4 percent on reports its Ebola vaccine is being fast-tracked for human trials.

Nasdaq heavyweight Apple edged up 0.1 percent after sending out cryptic invitations to a September 9 event amid rumours the tech giant will unveil a new iPhone and perhaps a wearable device.

Dollar General rose 0.8 percent after reporting fiscal second quarter sales trended higher. The deep-discount store chain also confirmed its commitment to buy Family Dollar, which rejected its US$9.7 billion (S$12.1 billion) offer last week. Family Dollar was flat.

Abercrombie & Fitch took a beating after the teen apparel chain reported second-quarter sales dropped six percent. Shares tanked 4.8 percent.

Bond prices traded higher. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury slid to 2.34 percent from 2.36 percent on Wednesday, while the 30-year fell to 3.08 percent from 3.11 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

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