U.S. stock futures are slightly lower for Tuesday as investors weigh rising tensions in eastern Ukraine and falling credit in China against some of the positive momentum from yesterday after U.S. March retail sales data showed an increase by the highest level in 18 months.
Armed pro-Russian separatists in nearly a dozen cities across eastern Ukraine seized more government buildings on Monday, defying warnings to leave as Kiev prepares to deploy special forces to gain re-control of the restive region while President Obama and the West accused Moscow of fomenting division in eastern Ukraine and threatened more far-reaching economic sanctions if tens of thousands of Russian troops along the border cross over and intervene in Ukraine.
Armed separatists carrying Russian flags have already established roadblocks in eastern Ukrainian cities such as Slavyansk in a sign of a power vacuum as Kiev struggles to maintain its control over the divided region in eastern Ukraine.
Russian officials insist that the separatists are acting on their own volition while the United States and the West reject Russia’s claim and see the emerging events in eastern Ukraine through the same prism that occurred in Crimea two months ago.
Pro-Russian separatists are attempting to forge a greater Russian identity across eastern Ukraine ahead of the upcoming elections and ultimately achieve the same type of outcome that occurred in Crimea only two months ago when Russian troops seized control over Crimea and set the stage for a referendum vote to allow the region to become annexed into Russia.
Ukraine’s currency has recently dropped to record lows following the developments and their central bank raised their main interest rate 3 percentage points to 9.5 percent to halt the currency decline.
China’s measurement of credit for lending fell 19 percent from last year which has investors concerned about a growth slowdown in the world’s second largest economy.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to speak at a financial markets conference later today.
– Johnathan Schweitzer