U.S. stocks fall as geopolitical risks remain

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. stock market eased in afternoon trading Tuesday following two days of gains. Investors focused on problems in Ukraine and Iraq and the damage those problems are starting to have on the broader, global economy. Energy stocks were among the biggest decliners, dragged down by lower oil prices.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 27 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,543 as of 2:45 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell six points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,931 and the Nasdaq composite fell 23 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,378.

GEOPOLITICAL TENSIONS: Fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine have faded in recent days, but worries about conflicts around the globe are likely to keep investors on edge in the coming weeks.

A convoy of more than 260 Russian trucks, reportedly packed with supplies, moved toward Russian’s border with Ukraine on Tuesday, but Kiev said the goods would only be allowed to cross if they were inspected by the International Red Cross. Ukraine is fearful that Russia could use the move as a cover for sending troops into the separatist-held territory.

Investors are also watching political machinations and violence unfold in oil-rich Iraq. On Tuesday, that nation’s embattled prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, tried to stay in power as Iraqi politicians and the international community rallied behind a political competitor.

GERMAN WORRIES: An indicator of German investor confidence dropped to its lowest level in 20 months for August, as investors worried that the Ukraine crisis will start dragging down the German economy, Europe’s largest. The euro drifted lower after the survey, falling to $1.3367.

Europe is much more exposed to Russia than the U.S., and Europe gets most of its natural gas from Russia.

“The Ukraine-Russia situation may be at a standstill politically, but it is weighing on the German economy and more broadly, the eurozone,” said Sean Lynch, a managing director at Wells Fargo Private Bank.

RISK OFF: There are signs investors are taking less-risky positions as geopolitical tensions mount around the world. The Russell 2000 index, which is made up primarily of smaller technology and healthcare companies, was down 1 percent, much more than the rest of the market. Investors bid up utilities and telecom stocks, which are typically considered the safest bets in the stock market due to their higher-than-normal dividends.

OIL LEAK: Energy stocks fell. The S&P 500 energy index lost nearly 1 percent. Kinder Morgan declined 2 percent after rising 9 percent the day before. Anadarko Petroleum and Pioneer Natural Resources fell more than 2 percent. Chevron and Exxon Mobil were among the worst performers in the Dow.

Energy stocks have declined noticeably in the last month, due largely to falling oil and natural gas prices. Brent crude, which is traded in the U.K. and is considered a broader gauge of the international oil market, is trading at a nine-month low. U.S. crude is trading at a seven-month low.

The price of U.S. crude oil slipped 71 cents to $97.37 a barrel Tuesday. That followed three days of increases over concerns about the reliability of Iraqi oil production.

OUT OF FASHION: Kate Spade plunged $10.20, or 26 percent, to $28.64 after executives for the handbag company warned that sales growth would slow this year. The comments came after Kate Spade reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit, which drove the stock up more than 10 percent earlier.

BONDS, COMMODITIES: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was 2.43 percent, unchanged from the prior day. In metals trading, gold rose 10 cents to $1,310.60 an ounce, silver fell 19 cents to $19.51 an ounce and copper fell two cents to $3.15 a pound.