Stocks opened the week on a down note as investors kept an eye on economic sanctions in Russia, and tech stocks continued to fall as investors fled to safety. By the end of the session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was down 26 points or 0.2%, while the broad-based S&P 500 dipped 0.5% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 1.2% on a momentum-stock sell-off.
In the latest developments with Russia, the G-8 group of nations said it would suspend Russia from the group and move a June summit planned for Sochi to Brussels. The leaders also said they would consider expanded sanctions against Russia as actions have already rocked the Russian stock market and the ruble. Back at home, a manufacturing report showed activity slowing in March. The Markit Purchasing Managers Index fell from 57.1 in February to 55.5, below estimates of 56.5. Still, February's reading was near a four-year high, and the figure was enough to indicate a moderate expansion in manufacturing activity.
Among stocks tumbling today was Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), which lost 6.7% on news that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) have held talks about partnering up. This morning, The Wall Street Journal reported that Comcast and Apple had been discussing creating a streaming television service that would use an Apple set-top box and Comcast broadband to ensure steady delivery. The talks are still in early stages and would face a variety of obstacles including regulatory issues, but could revolutionize TV. If a deal goes through, it could certainly pose a threat to Netflix, the current leader in video streaming. The report also demonstrates the difficulty of maintaining a leadership position in a fast-changing industry. Despite its current dominance in streaming, Netflix by no means has a lock on the industry, and with cable companies losing subscribers, it makes sense that they'd seek new partners. Apple shares finished up 1.2% on the day, while Comcast gained 0.6%.
Elsewhere, Nu Skin Enterprises (NYSE:NUS) jumped 18% after the company received what amounted to just a slap on the wrist in China. The maker of beauty products had seen its shares drop 40% in just two days in January when Chinese regulatory agencies announced an investigation into the multilevel marketing company's practices. Today, Nu Skin said it was fined just $540,000 for selling certain products through individual direct sellers instead of through its retail stores, and for product claims that lacked sufficient supporting evidence. Despite the jump, shares are still down close to 40% from before the investigation was announced as Nu Skin's guidance remains muted, and the company seems to be awaiting government permission to resume normal business activities. Still, after sales nearly doubled in its most recent quarter, the stock looks dirt cheap at a P/E of just 15.