Wall Street stocks fell again Wednesday amid unease over Ukraine and shifting Federal Reserve policy, while oil prices finished a volatile session little changed.

Major US indices opened the day higher, but began retreating soon thereafter amid fresh Ukraine headlines, finishing the day sharply lower.

A United Nations meeting on Ukraine heard that a full-scale Russian invasion of the country would have a devastating global impact that would likely spark a new "refugee crisis."

Also Wednesday, Ukraine's parliament declared a national state of emergency aimed at helping to forge a response to the threat of a full-scale Russian invasion.

And President Joe Biden followed up Tuesday's sanctions announcement, saying the United States will join Germany in imposing sanctions on the Russian Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project.

But so far the penalties were not as bad as markets had feared -- crucially with none aimed at Russia's crude exports -- providing much-needed breathing room for investors and halting the surge in oil prices that has seen both main contracts pile on more than 20 percent so far this year.

After a mixed day in European stocks, the broad-based S&P 500 dropped 1.8 percent, its fourth straight decline.

The market "is really agitated with all the uncertainty," said Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare, who also said wariness over the Fed's shifting policy was an exacerbating factor.

O'Hare noted that US Treasury yields rallied Wednesday, a sign investors so far aren't flooding into US debt in a "flight to quality."

Oil prices fluctuated throughout the day, but finished little changed, but analysts are still eyeing a possible spike in prices depending on what happens with Ukraine.

"There's still considerable risk that oil prices may surge above $100 a barrel" if the situation escalates, said Vivek Dhar at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

"Oil markets are particularly vulnerable at the moment given that global oil stockpiles are at seven-year lows."

Investors were cheered that Joe Biden's sanctions against Vladimir Putin were not as bad as feared
Investors were cheered that Joe Biden's sanctions against Vladimir Putin were not as bad as feared AFP / JIM WATSON

New York - Dow: DOWN 1.4 percent at 33,131.76 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 1.8 percent at 4,225.50 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 2.6 percent at 13,037.49 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,498.18 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: DOWN 0.4 percent at 14,631.36 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.1 percent at 6,780.67 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,973.41 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.6 percent at 23,660.28 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.9 percent at 3,489.15 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for a holiday

Brent North Sea crude: FLAT at $96.84 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.2 percent at $92.10 per barrel

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1308 from $1.1325 late Tuesday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3545 from $1.3585