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Pre-Market: Ukraine and China News Drag Global Markets Lower; US Producer Price Index Falls

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Blackstone cuts back housing purchases after prices soar.

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Stock futures were lower as the week's final trading session commenced.

Before the opening bell, Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) futures were down by 0.24% at 16,008. Futures on the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) dropped 0.21% to 1,835.90. Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) futures ticked down 0.14% to 3,639.50.

The Producer Price Index for final demand fell 0.1% in February, following two months of increases. The drop in producer prices was driven by lower pricing power among clothing retailers, airlines, and residential real estate brokers. In other economic-indicator news, the Reuter's/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index will be released at 9:55 a.m.

In earnings news, retailer Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO) posted a fourth-quarter loss of $0.35 per a share, lower than analyst estimates. Seaworld Entertainment (NYSE:SEAS) posted losses as well, blaming higher costs and lower admission. Beauty retailer Ulta (NASDAQ:ULTA) took the earnings crown, beating analyst estimates by $0.02. Shares of Ulta were up as high as 8.24% in pre-market trading.

A new report from a US safety watchdog found 303 deaths were attributed to the failed deployment of airbags in 1.6 million compact cars recalled by General Motors (NYSE:GM) in February. Shares of GM were down 1.50% in pre-market trading.

High prices have forced Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX) to slow down its purchases of US homes. Blackstone is acquiring homes at a 70% slower rate than it was a year ago. The firm is currently America's biggest single-family-home landlord.

Vodofone (NASDAQ:VOD) is reportedly close to inking a deal with Spanish cable company Ono. The latest offer made by Vodofone was roughly $10 billion including debt.

BP (NYSE:BP) has struck an agreement with the US Environmental Protection Agency that will allow it to once again bid for oil contracts in the Gulf of Mexico. The suspension was issued following BP's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf. Shares were down 0.19% in pre-market trading.

The People's Bank of China has prohibited virtual credit cards and quick-response codes like those issued by China's largest listed Internet company Tencent (OTCMKTS:TCEHY) and competitor Alibaba. The move undercuts the efforts of Internet companies in China, which have begun offering financial products.

Asian markets finished lower led by a 3.3% decline in the Nikkei (INDEXNIKKEI:NI225), while the yen rose sharply overnight. Continuing signs of China's economic slowdown fueled the sell-off.

European stocks were at a five-week low and gold topped off at a six-month high in London as the situation in Crimea grows inreasingly tense. With Sunday's referendum looming, Russian troops amassed at the Ukrainian border on Thursday. Today, US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in London, while US Senator John McCain leads seven fellow Senators to Ukraine to meet with leaders of its interim government.

Twitter: @brokawbrokaw
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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