The stock market edged lower Friday afternoon as investors remained focused on tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine. Many bought utilities in a bid for lower-risk stocks.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped four points, or 0.02 percent, to 1,842 as of 3:07 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 32 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,076. The Nasdaq composite shed 10 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,249.
CRIMEA QUESTION: Traders were monitoring discussions Friday between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. A referendum will be held Sunday in the Ukraine region of Crimea, where residents will vote on whether to split off from the rest of the country to join Russia. Lavrov told reporters that Russia has no plans to invade southeastern Ukraine. If Crimea secedes, the U.S. and European Union plan to slap sanctions as early as Monday on Russian officials and businesses accused of escalating the crisis and undermining Ukraine's new government.
QUOTE ON THE NEWS: Jim Russell, senior equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management, said the market's expectations and pricing have begun to reflect the assumption that Crimea will end up with Russia.
"We think the markets are going to trade very nervously, probably with a downward bias," he said.
SECTOR LOOK: Six of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index rose, led by utilities. Technology, health care, financials and industrials fell.
TUNING OUT: Liberty Media rose $9.66, or 7.7 percent, to $136.80. The company, which is controlled by billionaire John Malone, said late Thursday that it would drop its bid to buy the rest of the satellite radio provider Sirius XM.
FRESH BREW: Keurig jumped $7.05, or nearly 7 percent, to $113.21 after Starbucks said Friday that it has agreed to give up its right to be the only provider of premium coffee for Keurig's coffee brewing machines. That opens the door for Keurig to offer other high-quality coffee brands in single-serving packages.
PRETTY PROFIT: Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrances vaulted $6.54, or 7 percent, to $96.05. The beauty products retailer reported a nearly 10 percent increase in its fourth-quarter profit thanks to improved sales.
TEEN ANGST: Aeropostale fell $1.41, or 19 percent, to $4.90 after the retailer reported a wider loss late Thursday. The operator of clothing stores for teenagers also warned of tough times ahead.
PRICE WATCH: The Labor Department said Friday that the prices companies are paid for goods and services fell slightly in February, the latest sign of tame inflation. The producer price index, a measure of prices before they reach shoppers, dropped 0.1 percent in February. It was the first slip since November.
ROCKY WEEK: The three major indexes lost more than 1 percent on Thursday as growing worries about China's economy and rising tensions over Ukraine rattled investors. It was the worst day for the market in six weeks and the fourth loss in a row for the Dow. The plunge was a sharp contrast to the relatively quiet trading Monday through Wednesday following a record-setting run last week.
FAST-FORWARD: The outcome of Sunday's referendum in Ukraine hovers over the market heading into next week. But investors also will have a dose of U.S. housing data and an update from new Fed chair Janet Yellen in the mix. Fed policymakers are expected to continue scaling back the central bank's stimulus.
BONDS: In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note was little changed from late Thursday at 2.65 percent. It traded at 2.73 Wednesday. The yield affects rates on mortgages and other consumer loans.