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Wall Street wary of potential escalation in Ukraine

Wall Street could be looking at a short-term pullback, or a third day of losses on Tuesday, as investors keep a wary eye on the standoff between Russia and Ukraine.

In The Hague on Monday, the Group of Seven major industrialized nations opted to convene in Brussels in June rather than a planned G-8 meeting in Sochi, Russia, saying in a statement they would "suspend our participation in the G-8 until Russia changes course."

"There is mounting geopolitical risk over Ukraine and Russia's annexation of Crimea. That flash point has undermined investor confidence," said Matthew Kaufler, portfolio manager at Federated Investors.

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Getty Images
Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

"There are a lot of people writing into the editorial pages here about how Crimea doesn't matter, but it's not necessarily the space, but the reasons behind it," said Kim Forrest, senior equity analyst at Fort Pitt Capital in Pittsburgh.

"The leaders of the world should have acted more assertively, perhaps. It's about keeping access, and people's ability to freely go where they want to go that helps commerce in the long run. It's not just people, but goods and services," added Forrest of the potential curbs on the global economy.

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On March 16, residents of Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, with the United States and European Union reacting by implementing agreed-upon financial sanctions against members of the Russian and Crimean leadership. Attention is now focused on whether Russia will try to take other portions of Ukraine.

"There remains a degree of uncertainty about Russia's future intentions that may continue to fuel investor concerns in the near term. If the rift between Russia and the West continues to deepen, the strain could start to impact some of the larger and healthier economies in the European Union, including Germany," noted Sean Lynch, global investment strategist, and Peter Donisanu, global research analyst, at Wells Fargo.

"Geopolitical concerns have returned to the fore as the conflict between Ukraine and Russia has roiled their capital markets," wrote Dean Junkans, chief investment strategist, and Ronald Florance, deputy chief investment officer for investment strategy, Wells Fargo.

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"Any further steps to penalize Russia could have an economic impact on a number of economies in the EU that have strong trade ties with the country, namely Germany. Of particular concern is the potential for a disruption in energy supplies to Western Europe," Lynch and Donisanu said.

Beyond geopolitical concerns, Tuesday's U.S. data include a read of consumer confidence in March from the Conference Board. Last month the board's gauge slid 1.3 points to 78.1.

  • Patti Domm

    Patti Domm is CNBC Executive Editor, News, responsible for news coverage of the markets and economy.

  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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  • Rick Santelli joined CNBC Business News as an on-air editor in 1999, reporting live from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade.

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