Stock futures tumbled early Friday as worrisome developments in Ukraine weighed on investor sentiment as investors digested the latest labor market data.
Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 334 points, or 1%. S&P 500 futures were also down nearly 1%, while Nasdaq 100 futures were down 0.9%.
The decline in futures followed reports that smoke could be seen from a nuclear power plant in Ukraine – Europe’s largest – following an attack by Russian troops.
Energy prices rose across the board, with US West Texas Intermediate crude up 2.4% to $110.26 and global standard Brent crude up 2.2% to $112.88. Government bond yields fell as investors reduced risk, with benchmark 10-year Treasuries slipping 6.2 basis points to 1.78%.
Futures briefly recouped their losses after a stronger-than-expected employment report in February. The economy added 678,000 jobs last month, up from the 440,000 expected by economists, according to Dow Jones data. The unemployment rate fell to 3.8%.
This is the last employment report before the next Federal Reserve meeting, where the central bank is expected to start raising interest rates. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said this week he is leaning towards supporting a one-time 25 basis point hike in March. The basis point is 0.01%.
One of the surprises in the employment report was wage growth, which changed little from month to month. Slower-than-expected growth could make price increases more painful for ordinary Americans, but could also dampen fears that recent inflation will prove sustainable.
“The details are bullish for stocks in that job creation remains robust and employment rates are rising while wages are falling, potentially reducing pressure on the Fed,” said Adam Crisafulli of Vital Knowledge.
The war in Ukraine will also be the focus of investors on Friday. Ukraine still holds its capital, Kyiv, and fighting has been going on for more than a week, although reports of shelling in other major cities have increased. According to the UN, a million Ukrainians left the country.
Meanwhile, economic sanctions by the United States and its allies have effectively cut off the Russian economy from much of the global financial system. JPMorgan said Thursday in a note that Russia’s economy could contract by 35% year on year in the second quarter.