Poor 1Q results drag down stocks

The US stock market fell sharply, dragged down by disappointing quarterly results from Amazon and Ford, with escalating tensions between America and Russia over Ukraine also weighing in.

Disappointing first-quarter results have pushed down US stocks
Disappointing first-quarter results have pushed down US stocks

Worried investors sold their risky assets and moved into the traditional havens: bonds, gold and stocks that pay high dividends like utilities.

The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 15.21 points, or 0.8%, to 1,863.40. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 140.19 points, or 0.9%, to 16,361.46 and the Nasdaq composite lost 72.78 points, or 1.8%, to 4,075.56.

Friday's sell-off was enough to push the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq into the red for the week.

Technology stocks, which have been volatile for the last two months, were once again a hotbed of selling.

Amazon, the world's largest online store, sank 33.32 dollars, or 10%, to 303.83. Amazon reported an increase in first-quarter profit, but the company also said that spending on investments would likely lead to an operating loss in the second quarter.

The retail giant dragged the rest of the technology sector lower, making it one of the worst performing sectors in the S&P 500. Netflix fell more than 6%, Priceline lost 5%, Facebook fell 5% and Twitter lost more than 7%.

For a second day, the escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine affected US investor sentiment.

Investments thought to be less risky were among the few assets to rise. Bond prices rose, pushing the yield on the 10-year Treasury note down to 2.66% from 2.68% yestrerday. Gold rose 10.20 dollars, or 0.8%, to 1,300.80 dollars an ounce.

Dividend-rich utility stocks also rose. The Dow Jones utility index, a basket of 15 utility stocks, rose 1% to 551.66, its highest level since December 2007.

The US might have put in place the sanctions against Russia and its officials to punish that country, but the measures are starting to have an impact the profits of some US companies as well.

Visa fell 10.47 dollars, or 5%, to 198.93 after it warned that the US sanctions were causing Russian banks to use other companies to process payments. Russian president Vladimir Putin said the country will create its own payment processing system. MasterCard was also hurt by the news. Its stock fell 3.69, or 5%, to 70.66.

Visa's decline accounted for roughly half the fall in the Dow.

In other company news:

- Ford fell 54 cents, or 3.3%, to 15.78 dollars after the company reported earnings that fell short of Wall Street's expectations. Worldwide sales rose 6% in the first quarter, but the company reported a sales drop in North America that cut into the company's profit. General Motors fell 45 cents, or 1.3%, to 33.72.