U.S. stocks opened sharply lower Tuesday, extending heavy losses in Asian and European trading, as investors reacted to news that a damaged nuclear reactor in Japan was leaking more radiation into the atmosphere. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 264 points, or 2.2%, to 11,728, led by a 5% drop in General Electric shares. The S&P 500 dropped 31 points or 2.5% to 1,264, with a 3.1% drop in industrials leading a broad decline. The Nasdaq Composite fell 73 points or 2.7% to 2,627. The Japanese index, the Nikkei fell as much as 14% overnight before closing down 10%. In our markets, the weakness is broad based led by commodity stocks tied into the uranium and nuclear power business. The alternative energy stocks are modestly higher this morning. Commodity stocks Exxon, Nucor, Gerdau, Noble Corp, and Noble Energy were all upgraded, but all are lower. In the tech space everything is lower. Even Apple is down 3%. Intel is down 3% on a downgrade. Chipmaker Micron may benefit from the Japanese disaster, but the stock is lower. Research in Motion is lower even though it was upgraded. In the retail space, Brown Shoes is down 22% following earnings. DSW is down 5% after missing estimates. Lowes is down on an upgrade. William Sonoma is one of the few retailers higher on an upgrade. Netflix is up 3% on an upgrade from Goldman Sachs. Through the first hour the averages tried to rebound with little success. Through the morning the averages fought to recover. The good is we didn't make new lows after the open. In the afternoon the averages were able to get under a 200 point sell off. In the middle of the afternoon the Fed left rates unchanged and making encouraging comments about the economy. The averages initially sold off only to rebound. In the last hour the averages continued to improve declining only 85 points before selling back off. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 137 points, or 1.2%, at 11,855. That was an improvement from a loss of 297 points at the day's lows. Chevron was the sole gainer in the Dow. The S&P 500 closed down 14 points, or 1.1%, at 1,281, with utilities the worst and materials performing the best. The Nasdaq Composite ended down 33 points, or 1.3%, at 2,667.
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