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U.S. stocks trade little changed while ruble weakens on Ukraine

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(Bloomberg) — U.S. stocks were little changed after capping the best week since July, while gold and wheat fell. The ruble declined after a deadly clash in Ukraine and the yen slid as Japan’s trade deficit widened more than forecast.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index advanced less than 0.1 percent to 1,865.44 at 9:32 a.m. in New York, following a 2.7 percent gain last week. Ten-year Treasury yields fell two basis points to 2.70 percent. Gold slid to a two-week low and wheat dropped 2.2 percent. The ruble depreciated 0.3 percent against the dollar. Japan’s currency declined versus all of its 16 major peers. Markets in the U.K., Germany, Hong Kong and Australia were closed for the Easter Monday holiday.

Stocks advanced last week in the U.S. after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen reiterated the bank’s commitment to achieving its goals for employment and inflation and earnings from General Electric Co. and Morgan Stanley beat estimates. Netflix Inc. reports results today and the Conference Board releases its gauge of leading indicators. Ukraine warned that Russia may use the fatal shootout in the country’s east as a pretext for invasion as a diplomatic accord reached last week showed little sign of taking hold.

“I suspect most companies are going to raise guidance for the upcoming quarters,” said Patrick Spencer, who helps oversee more than $100 billion as head of equity sales at Robert W. Baird & Co. in London. “The economy remains in a sweet spot. I’m very optimistic for this year.”

Economic outlook

The Conference Board’s gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months probably climbed 0.7 percent last month after rising 0.5 percent in February, according to the median of 37 estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

The ruble slipped 0.3 percent against the euro, while Russia’s Micex Index swung between gains and losses after declining as much as 0.9 percent.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry blamed the Ukrainian nationalist group Pravyi Sektor for the violence which left at least three people dead over the weekend, an allegation that Pravyi Sektor denied in a statement. Viktoria Syumar, first deputy head of the National Security and Defense Council in Kiev, said on her Facebook page that Russia’s accusation and statements show it’s preparing to invade Ukraine. Geneva accord

The discord adds to skepticism about whether Ukraine, the U.S. and the European Union will be able to use an April 17 Geneva accord to encourage Russian President Vladimir Putin to ease tensions that he says he’s had no role in creating.

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The Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.5 percent amid speculation that new initial public offerings and sales of preferred shares by lenders will sap liquidity. India’s Sensex added 0.6 percent, advancing for a second day.

Abu Dhabi’s ADX General Index climbed 1 percent, led by Aldar Properties PJSC, which gained 4.5 percent after announcing plans to develop three residential projects. Dubai’s DFM benchmark index advanced 2.9 percent, with the emirate’s Deyaar Development PJSC rising as much as 6.1 percent to the highest close since 2008, after raising limits on foreign share ownership. Arabtec Holding Co., a builder, added 9.5 percent.

Gold slid 0.3 percent to $1,289.90 an ounce. The metal has pared this year’s advance as investors assessed prospects for further cuts to the Federal Reserve’s stimulus program amid signs of recovery in the world’s largest economy.

Haven trade

“It is very difficult for gold to sustain the panic that makes it a good safe-haven trade,” Frances Hudson, a strategist at Standard Life in Edinburgh, which oversees $294 billion of assets. “I see demand for gold remaining non-enthusiastic. Things are looking better in the U.S. and Europe. It’s not that both these economies are racing ahead, but they are gradually improving.”

Wheat for July delivery lost as much as 2.2 percent to $6.8375 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade, the lowest price for a most-active contract since April 15. Futures rose 4.6 percent last week, the first such advance this month and the most in five weeks, amid concern that dry conditions will disrupt U.S. supplies.

The yen declined 0.2 percent to 102.59 per dollar. The deficit quadrupled from a year earlier to 1.45 trillion-yen ($14.1 billion), larger than a 1.08 trillion yen projection by economists, amid the weakest export growth in a year.

“Japan’s trade deficit was much larger than expected, so it helped to push the yen lower,” said Marito Ueda, senior managing director at currency-margin company FX Prime Corp. in Tokyo. “We’re likely to shift to a dollar-strength story from a yen weakness story going forward as we start to see good data from the U.S.”

—With assistance from Debarati Roy in New York, Mariko Ishikawa in Tokyo and Cecile Vannucci in London.