US STOCKS-Wall St falls as Ukraine tensions rise, China slows
* Latest China data points to slowing economy
* Ukraine tensions continue, Merkel warns Russia
* Initial claims fall, retail sales tops estimate
* Indexes off: Dow 1.16 pct, S&P 1 pct, Nasdaq 1.34 pct
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, March 13 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks dropped on Thursday on rising tension in Ukraine, which helped erase earlier gains spurred by better-than-expected data on retail sales and the labor market.
Selling accelerated after reports U.S. F-16 fighter jets landed at central Poland's Lask air base on Thursday to take part in military exercises seen as Washington's gesture of support for its eastern NATO allies. Volume on the S&P e-Mini futures totaled more than 27,000 contracts at 1:02 p.m. (1502 GMT).
Russia said it had started military exercises near the border with Ukraine, in what is likely to be seen as a show of force in the standoff with the West over Crimea. Ukraine's acting president said Russian forces were concentrated on the border "ready to invade," but he believed international efforts could end Moscow's "aggression" and avert the risk of war.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Germany assumes this weekend's referendum in Crimea will be followed by steps to absorb the region into Russia, and if there is no change in direction the European Union will be forced to consider a further, third stage of sanctions. Continuación...