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US STOCKS-Wall Street ends lower as war in Ukraine stirs uncertainty

·3 min read

(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stock markets, click LIVE/ or type LIVE/ in a news window.)

* Kroger surges on strong earnings outlook

* American Eagle tumbles on poor forecast (Updates with close of session)

By Devik Jain and Noel Randewich

March 3 (Reuters) - Wall Street ended lower on Thursday, with growth stocks including Tesla and Amazon losing ground as the Ukraine crisis kept investors on edge.

Tesla and Amazon were among the stocks weighing most on the S&P 500. The S&P 500 growth index underperformed the value index.

Reflecting a defensive mood on Wall Street, the S&P 500 utilities and real estate indexes rallied.

With Russia's invasion of Ukraine now a week in, hundreds of Russian soldiers and Ukrainian civilians have been killed, and Russia itself has been plunged into isolation.

"The market is entirely locked on what this geopolitical turmoil looks like," said Ross Mayfield, an investment strategist at Baird in Louisville, Kentucky. "Volatility is likely to remain for probably the near term, and maybe even the medium term, because I just don't see what an acceptable off ramp in the next couple of weeks for Ukraine or Putin."

Also, soaring prices of oil and other commodities have stoked fears that recent high inflation could combine with stagnant economic growth, making it more difficult for the Federal Reserve and other major central banks to manage interest rates.

The percentage of fund managers who expect so-called stagflation within the next 12 months stood at 30%, compared with 22% last month, a survey from BofA Global Research showed.

Wall Street surged in the previous session after Fed Chair Jerome Powell said he would back a quarter point rate increase at the March 15-16 meeting, assuaging some fears of a more aggressive hike.

"We are going to stay in a tight range until we have the Fed meeting in two weeks because there's limited earnings," predicted Jay Hatfield, chief investment officer at Infrastructure Capital Management in New York.

"There's no real reason to be long, unless, of course, there's some peace or stability in Ukraine, which doesn't seem likely."

According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 lost 23.08 points, or 0.53%, to end at 4,363.46 points, while the Nasdaq Composite lost 212.72 points, or 1.55%, to 13,539.30. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 94.45 points, or 0.28%, to 33,796.90.

Meanwhile, data showed a measure of U.S. services industry activity dropped to a one-year low in February and employment contracted.

Kroger Co jumped after the grocer forecast upbeat annual same-store sales and profit, encouraged by strong demand for its pick-up and delivery services and sustained home-cooking trends.

American Eagle Outfitters Inc slid after the apparel chain forecast a decline in earnings for the first half of 2022. (Reporting by Devik Jain and Sabahatjahan Contractor in Bengaluru and by Noel Randewich in Oakland, Calif.; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Sriraj Kalluvila and Grant McCool)