Coming in, Asian and European markets were down across the board with notable weakness in the Nikkei 225 (INDEXNIKKEI:NI225).
The situation in Ukraine appeared to be simmering over, with Estonia's Defense Minister reportedly saying that Russia was set to invade eastern Ukraine.
At a press conference following his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Secretary of State John Kerry did not announce a favorable outcome ahead of Sunday's Crimea secession referendum, but the markets perceived the talks as somewhat constructive -- or at least not disastrous. Secretary Kerry said that Russia can respect the results of the referendum without a "back-door annexation" of Crimea, indicating that even if Russia does take Crimea, there won't necessarily be a military conflict.
Additionally, Lavrov subsequently said Russia had no plans to invade eastern Ukraine, contradicting the report out of Estonia.
Russian stocks reversed hard from early morning lows, and the Market Vector Russia ETF Trust (NYSEARCA:RSX) was a standout performer, finishing up 3.6%. German stocks also snapped a seven-session losing streak as the DAX Index (INDEXDB:DAX) rose 0.4%.
However, the VIX (INDEXCBOE:VIX) was up sharply, indicating that investors are bracing themselves for a possible move lower, and the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) finished 0.3% lower at 1841.13.
In US economic news, the March University of Michigan Consumer Confidence reading was weaker than expected at 79.9. Additionally, consumers' outlook for future economic conditions disappointed.
And February PPI rose 0.9%, missing expectations of a 1.2% gain on a decline in services prices.
Monday's Financial Outlook
On Monday, we will receive February Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization reports, as well as the March Empire Manufacturing and NAHB Housing Market Index Numbers.
There are no major earnings reports on the calendar.
Traders will largely be focused on geopolitical news related to Ukraine and Russia, which could determine whether we see a near-term trend change in US markets.
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