Stock market ends lower as geopolitical tensions move center stage

U.S. stocks closed lower on Wednesday as investors assessed rising geopolitical tensions.

Major indexes came under pressure in early trade after tweets from President Donald Trump suggested he was preparing for a military strike in Syria and underlined a tense relationship with Russia.

What are the main benchmarks doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA, -0.90%
fell 218.55 points, or 0.9%, to 24,189.45, with 26 of its 30 components finishing in negative territory.

The S&P 500
SPX, -0.55%
declined 14.68 points, or 0.6%, to 2,642.19, with nine of its 11 main sectors ending lower. Telecoms and financials led the losses, falling more than 1%.

The Nasdaq Composite Index
COMP, -0.36%
closed 25.27 points, or 0.4%, lower at 7,069.03.

Dont miss: Theres been a historic amount of earthshaking stock-market volatility this year

Whats driving markets

The possibility of a U.S. strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appeared to be growing, with Trump and his administration working to rally international support.

Read: Geopolitical risk matters again. Heres what it means for markets

Talk of a strike has been simmering since a suspected Assad-led chemical-weapons attack killed civilians in the rebel-held town of Douma over the weekend. But it could draw the U.S. into a conflict with Russia, in particular, which backs the Assad regime.

Meanwhile the uncertainty contributed to the days rise in energy stocks. Crude oil rallied 2%, hitting the highest levels since late 2014 as the position tensions in the Middle East-fed concerns over potential supply disruptions in the region.

Which data were in focus?

The consumer-price index fell 0.1% in March, while the core CPIwhich excludes food and energywas up 0.2%. Both readings were in line with analyst forecasts.

The minutes from the Federal Reserves latest policy meeting show that policy makers discussed the need to tap on the brakes on the economy. The somewhat hawkish tone of the minutes didnt move markets much.

Separately, the federal governments budget deficit was $209 billion in March, the Treasury said, up 18% from the same month a year ago.

And read: The economy is fine now, but watch out for 2020, top economist says

What are strategists saying?

All things considered, such as earlier Trump comments on Syria, markets are holding up pretty well. But this may also be due to the fact that investors are waiting for the earnings season to begin in earnest, said Mark Kepner, managing director of sales and trading at Themis Trading

Volatility does not seem to be slowing downin either directionregardless of solid economic numbers, said Mike Loewengart, vice president of investment strategy at E*Trade. There are much bigger issues at stakenamely escalating tensions with Russia and China.

Which stocks were key movers?

Facebook Inc.s shares
FB, +0.78%
rose 0.8% as CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before U.S. lawmakers for a second day, this time in front of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The Silicon Valley heavyweights co-founder on Tuesday endured about five hours of questioning by senators, and the market appeared to like his performance, sending Facebooks stock higher by 4.5%. However, it remains down 4.9% for 2018 thus far.

Dont miss: Zuckerberg testifies, and the internet is outragedat senators

Shares of Mattel Inc.
MAT, +6.58%
shot up 6.6% after Jefferies analyst Stephanie Wissink upgraded the stock to neutral from underperform.

21st Century Fox Inc.s stock
FOXA, -0.25%
fell 0.3% as the media giants office in the U.K. drew a surprise inspection Tuesday by European Commission investigators, who are conducting an antitrust probe into sports rights and distribution of sports content. 21st Century Fox and News Corp, MarketWatchs parent company, share common ownership.

Synaptics Inc.
SYNA, +8.34%
rose 8.3% after Mizuho upgraded the stock to buy and raised its price target to $55 from $42.

Carnival Corp.
CCL, +0.86%
rose 2% after it said it was raising its dividend and reauthorizing its stock repurchase program of up to $1 billion.

Fastenal Co.s stock
FAST, -6.19%
dropped 6.2% after the maker of fasteners posted first-quarter profit and sales that increased just in line with expectations.

What did other markets do?

Asian stocks closed mixed, while European stocks
SXXP, -0.59%

Gold futures
GCM8, -0.51%
GCM8, -0.51%
advanced settling 1.1% higher at $1,360 an ounce, the highest level since January 2016. The ICE U.S. Dollar Index
DXY, +0.09%
was mostly unchanged at 89.578.

Oil prices
CLK8, +0.45%
rose 2% to $66.85 a barrel, building on recent gains and settling at the highest level since December 2014.

Barbara Kollmeyer and Victor Reklaitis contributed to this article

Related Topics U.S. Stocks Markets NY Stock Exchange NASDAQ

Quote References DJIA -218.55 -0.90% SPX -14.68 -0.55% COMP -25.27 -0.36% FB +1.28 +0.78% MAT +0.89 +6.58% FOXA -0.09 -0.25% SYNA +3.67 +8.34% CCL +0.54 +0.86% FAST -3.37 -6.19% SXXP -2.24 -0.59% GCM8 -7.00 -0.51% DXY +0.08 +0.09% CLK8 +0.30 +0.45% Show all references
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