Wall Street slides on Ukraine fears

US stocks close lower as investors fret about the latest outbreak of violence in Ukraine.

US stocks have closed sharply lower as investors fretted about the latest outbreak of violence in Ukraine and took a cautious stance on 'momentum' stocks and banks.

At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up 129.53 points, or 0.78%, to 16,401.02.

The broad-based S&P 500 dropped 16.94 points, or 0.90%, to 1,867.72, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index slumped 57.30 points lower, or 1.38%, to 4,080.76.

The drop came as the death toll rose to 34 in Ukraine, with Kiev trying to reclaim control of the east of the country from rebel separatists. Much of the fighting has been centred on the rebel stronghold of Slavyansk.

Investors had little in the way of data to analyse, with trade numbers the only release of note in the US.

Commerce Department numbers showed a narrowing of the trade deficit to $US40.4 billion ($43.7bn) in March, from $US41.9bn in February.

There was some positive news in Europe as UK's services sector showed significant expansion, eurozone retail sales climbed and eurozone growth expectations lifted. However, this was offset by a downgrade to the OECD's global growth forecast for this year, from 3.6% to 3.4%.

Meanwhile, momentum stocks were hit hard once again, with Twitter again falling to a fresh record low since its November listing.

"Notably, the three worst-performing sectors so far today are cyclical sectors," Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare said. 

"That underperformance is lining up with the weakness in the dollar and the Russell 2000 (-0.7%), and the modest gains in longer-dated Treasury securities, as a signpost that market participants aren't fully on board with the economic acceleration argument (at least not today anyway)."

Banks also struggled for traction as investors weighed weak results by UK institution Barclays and continued to punish a downgrade made by JP Morgan to its trading division on Friday.

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