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U.S. stocks fell in afternoon trading today, extending earlier losses, as energy shares declined and concern increased over escalating tensions in Ukraine.

Halliburton Co. and Noble Corp. tumbled more than 2.6 percent to pace declines among energy companies. Target Corp. lost 4 percent after second-quarter profit trailed its forecast as U.S. sales remained weak and its Canadian operations continued to struggle. Motorola Solutions Inc. slipped 4.8 percent as quarterly earnings fell short of estimates. Dollar General Corp. gained 3.3 percent as it was said to be weighing a bid for Family Dollar Stores Inc.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slipped 0.9 percent to 1,920.99 at 2:31 p.m. in New York. The Dow Jones industrial average retreated 143.44 points, or 0.9 percent, to 16,425.84. Trading in S&P 500 companies was 12 percent above the 30-day average for this time of day.

“The market had been jittery,” Lou Shaduk, managing director of equity trading at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. in Baltimore, said in an interview. “You have Polish Minister Sikorski talking about Russian forces poised to pressure or invade Ukraine and that’s all the buyers needed today to go into hiding.”

Equities extended losses in the afternoon after Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said Russian units are poised to pressure or invade Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin ordered the government to prepare a response to U.S. and European sanctions as Russia said eastern Ukraine neared a “humanitarian catastrophe” and required immediate international assistance.

Selling accelerated after the S&P 500 slipped below last week’s closing level of 1,925.15 and Monday’s intraday low of 1,921.20. The gauge has lost more than 3.5 percent since reaching a record high of 1,987.98 on July 24 and is within 70 points of erasing its gain for the year.

“I would attribute the dip in S&P to the rumor that Russia’s getting ready to invade Ukraine,” Walter “Bucky” Hellwig, a Birmingham, Alabama-based senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management, said by phone. “That created additional technical difficulties with high-frequency trading.”

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