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Overnight Markets: US stocks close little changed on China, Ukraine

Overnight Markets: US stocks close little changed on China, Ukraine

Wall Street closed little changed on Wednesday as investors watched developments in Ukraine but shrugged off concern over weakness in China's economy.

The Dow Jones industrial average declined 11 points or 0.07%, to 16,340, the S&P 500 gained one point to 1,868 and the Nasdaq Composite added 16 points or 0.37%, to 4,323.

The EU agreed a framework for its first sanctions on Russia since the Cold War, a stronger-than-expected response to the Ukraine crisis and a mark of solidarity with Washington in the effort to make Moscow pay for seizing Crimea.

London copper prices hit their lowest since July 2010 on concerns about credit problems in China, but later rebounded. Copper has fallen 7.7% over four sessions. Spot gold hit a six-month high on its safe-haven appeal.

In company news, Herbalife (HLF.N) fell 7.4% after the company said the US Federal Trade Commission had opened an inquiry into its operations.

Shares of Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB) and Freddie Mac (FMCC.OB) fell sharply, a day after leaders of the Senate Banking Committee announced an agreement on legislation to wind down the government-owned mortgage financiers. Fannie lost 12.2% and Freddie fell 16.8%.

In deal news, EPL Oil & Gas Inc (EPL.N) surged 28.8% after the company agreed to be acquired by larger rival Energy XXI Ltd (EXXI.O) for $2.3 billion including debt. Energy XXI shares lost 7.8%.

Express Inc (EXPR.N) fell 12% after the apparel retailer reported fourth-quarter earnings and forecast a profit for the current quarter that fell far short of analyst expectations.

Oxigene Inc (OXGN.O) surged 77.3% after the company said its experimental drug Zybrestat, combined with Roche's (ROG.VX) cancer drug Avastin, significantly slowed progression of recurrent ovarian cancer.

Geron Corp (GERN.O) lost 61.6% after the company said the US Food and Drug Administration ordered a halt to trials of a cancer drug over concerns about potential liver damage.

In Asia, shares gained on Thursday in morning trade after a report signalled Australia’s labour market is strengthening and as investors awaited industrial-production data from China.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.5% to 137 as of 9:39 a.m. in Hong Kong. South Korea’s Kospi climbed 0.2% and Japan’s Topix index added less than 0.1%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was little changed, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index was up 1.08%. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index swung between gains and losses after the central bank raised its key interest rate.

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