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Market Snapshot: Dow Jones Industrial Average sinks 500 points lower as Russia-Ukraine conflict sparks nuclear fears

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U.S. stock-index futures fell Friday, with February jobs data beating forecasts, but investors are focused on a worsening conflict between Russia and Ukraine which resulted in a fire at a nuclear power plant earlier in the day.

How are stock index-futures trading?
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average futures
    YM00,
    -1.00%

    dropped 218 points, or 0.6%, to 33,523
  • S&P 500 futures
    ES00,
    -0.95%

    fell 27 points, or 0.6%, to 4,331
  • Nasdaq-100 futures
    NQ00,
    -0.89%

    dropped 75 points, or 0.5%, to 13,952

On Thursday, the stock market failed to hold on to gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-0.29%

closed down 96.69 points, or 0.3%, to 33,794.66; the S&P 500
SPX,
-0.53%

 fell 23.05 points, or 0.5%, ending at 4,363.49; and the Nasdaq Composite
COMP,
-1.56%

 ended 214.07 points lower, or 1.6%, finishing at 13,537.94.

What’s driving markets?

Stock futures briefly pared losses after data showed February nonfarm payrolls rising by 678,000 versus a forecast of 440,000. U.S. average hourly earnings rose 1 cent to $31.58 and hours worked rose 0.1 hour.

Investors were distracted by news of a now-extinguished fire at a nuclear power plant in the Ukrainian city of Enerhodar that had been shelled by Russian troops. The plant reportedly has six reactors, and three had been offline before the attack, according to Associated Press reports.

Dow futures plunged about 500 points immediately after the first reports of the nuclear plant fire emerged late Thursday, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 futures following a similar path.

Ukrainian state emergency services later said on Facebook
FB,
-2.47%

that the fire had been in a training building and had been contained. The regional military service said early measurements on Friday showed radiation was “unchanged” and was posing no danger to the population.

According to experts, the risk lies if the plant loses power and is unable to cool the nuclear material, leading to a meltdown, which could be accompanied by an explosion.

“Traders may be unwilling to hold risk over the weekend, given the reality of a hot war in Ukraine and that the situation can move in any direction,” said a strategy team at Saxo Bank, in a note to clients.

Investors were flocking to haven assets, such as gold and the dollar, with the euro
EURUSD,
-1.40%

plunging 1.4% to $1.0906, a level not seen in nearly two years.

Crude oil prices remained elevated, with April West Texas Intermediate crude futures
CLJ22,
+3.35%

over $109 a barrel and May Brent crude
BRNK22,
+3.12%
,
the global benchmark, hovering atop $111 a barrel.

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