NEW YORK - Renewed concerns that tensions could flare up between Russian and Ukraine pushed U.S. stocks sharply lower Tuesday.
The market had been moderately lower all day, weighed down by a disappointing earnings forecast from retail giant Target and a report on China that showed the world's secondlargest economy was slowing down.
The selling accelerated in afternoon trading. The Dow Jones industrial average fell nearly 200 points at one point, but recovered some of those losses in the last 30 minutes of trading.
Several traders pointed to news reports of a buildup in Russian troops on the Ukraine border and comments from a Polish politician that reportedly said Russia was poised to invade or pressure Ukraine's eastern border as catalysts for the selling.
The developments came after the most recent round of sanctions were imposed on Russia by the U.S. and Europe last week. Russia called Tuesday for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the situation in Ukraine.
The Ukraine-Russia tensions were "outweighing any good economic data" that investors had to work with Tuesday, said Tom di Galoma, a bond trader at ED& F Mann Capital.
The Dow lost 139.81 points, or 0.8 percent, to 16,429.47, the lowest level for the index since May. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 18.78 points, or 1 percent, to 1,920.21 and the Nasdaq composite fell 31.05 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,352.84.
The tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been a headache for investors for months now. However the stakes are higher than before, investors say.
With winter a few months away, Europe's recovering economy remains dependent on Russian natural gas for heat and electricity. Germany imports nearly all its natural gas from Russia, and France also gets a significant amount of its energy needs from Russia.