NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks were dropping Wednesday on reports that a Malaysian jet had crashed in eastern Ukraine with causes unknown, killing all 295 passengers including 15 crew members. The news comes at a time of escalating conflict along the Ukrainian border, allegedly exacerbated by Russian interference.
Malaysia Airlines has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow.— Malaysia Airlines (@MAS) July 17, 2014
Markets were already lower, though much less so, after a new round of sanctions against Russia from the Obama administration were announced. The latest sanctions were a response to the ongoing conflict along the Ukrainian border.
The latest round of sanctions are more crippling to Russia with restrictions placed on Rosneft, the largest oil company in the world, and Novatek, the second-largest gas producer in Russia.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.35% to 17,078.01, gapping from the index's record close of 17,138.2 a day earlier and dropping for its first session in five days. The S&P 500 moved 0.59% lower to 1,969.89, while the Nasdaq dropped 0.79% to 4,391.83.
Gold prices have spiked as investors seek alternate markets to equities suffering from the turmoil and sanctions. Gold futures for August delivery were up 1.8% to $1,322.40, while the Gold Miners ETF (GDX) and SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) spiked 2.4% to $26.91 and 1.7% to $127.14, respectively.
Asian markets closed slightly lower, with the Shanghai Composite showing the biggest losses, while European markets continued to fall over their session.
Stateside, June housing starts declined 9.3% to 893,000 units, heaping on top of a 7.3% drop a month earlier and missing estimates of 1.026 million units.
The labor market continued to improve with initial jobless claims slipping 3,000 in the week ended July 12 to 302,000. Analysts had expected 310,000 claims.
The Philly Fed survey indicated general business conditions rose. The survey jumped to 23.9 from 17.8 a month earlier. Indicators of future activity increased, suggesting optimism in growth prospects through to the year's end.
Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella said the software giant plans to cut 18,000 jobs by the end of 2015, including 12,500 in its Nokia division. Microsoft acquired the unit in April for $7.2 billion and committed to cutting costs by $600 million per year in the 18 months from the completion of the acquisition. Microsoft shares were up 0.66% to $44.37.
Morgan Stanley (MS) more than doubled its quarterly net income to 94 cents a share from 41 cents a share a year earlier.
SanDisk (SNDK) shares were falling 12.4% to $94.42 after guiding for third-quarter revenue between $1.68 billion and $1.73 billion, slightly lower than analysts' estimates.
eBay (EBAY) was edging 1.6% higher to $51.51 after reporting second-quarter earnings of 69 cents a share, a penny higher than what analysts expected.
Check out TheStreet's Jonathan Marino with Thursday's Global Markets Report:
-- Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.