Dow falls nearly 250 points

San Francisco (Mar 13)  Investors hit the sell button today as worries about global tensions and more bad news out of China overshadowed good news on the U.S. economy.

The Dow fell more than 230 points, or 1.4%. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also were off by more than 1%. All three indexes were up in earlier trading.

Wall Street is waiting to see what happens in Sunday's Crimean referendum on joining the Russian Federation, and what that outcome may mean for markets.

In addition, China announced that retail sales and industrial production were both worse than expected and that helped add to worries that the story out of China won't be a good one for investors anytime soon.

European and Asian stock markets finished Thursday mostly lower due to the worries about a slowdown in China.

"For China, the question is whether the [government] authorities are in control of the slowdown, or if it starts controlling them," said Simon Smith, chief economist at FxPro.

The China and Ukraine concerns overshadowed a report by the U.S. government that retail sales in February were up 0.3%. This was the first increase in three months as consumers bought more autos and clothing. On the jobs front, initial unemployment claims fell by 9,000 to 315,000, a three month low.

Source: MoneyCNN