U.S. stocks declined to 2011 lows on Wednesday as worsening crisis at Japan nuclear reactor and weaker-than-expected housing data weighed on the sentiment.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 242.12 points, or 2.04 percent, at 11,613.30. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 24.99 points, or 1.95 percent, at 1,256.88. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 50.51 points, or 1.89 percent, at 2,616.82.
Bid to drop water from a helicopter on a Japan nuclear reactor Wednesday failed due to high radiation while another attempt on Thursday morning proved partially successful, with two of four water drops over the site hitting their mark. Meanwhile, the top U.S. nuclear regulator warned that one reactor cooling pool for spent fuel rods may have run dry and another was leaking.
On the economic front, Wednesday’s housing data was terrible. February housing starts dropped to an annual rate of 479,000 units and building permits fell to an annual rate of 517,000 units. Also, new building permits, a measure of future construction, fell 8.2 percent to 517,000 in February against the revised figure of 563,000 in December.
Both figures measure the pace of US housing construction. Despite the overall US economic recovery, Wednesday’s data continue to confirm the persistent weakness in the real estate market.
Meanwhile, producer price index (PPI) for finished goods rose a seasonally adjusted 1.6 percent in February, following advances of 0.8 percent in January and 0.9 percent in December. The index for finished goods less foods and energy rose 0.2 percent from a 0.5 percent gain in the previous month.
On the corporate front, KB Home (NYSE:KBH) declined 3.79 percent and D.R Horton Inc. (NYSE:DHI) declined 12.26 percent following disappointing data on housing sector.
Shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) plunged 4.46 percent to $330.01 after the company stock was downgraded to “Market Perform” rating from “Outperform” rating at JMP Securities.
International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) shares declined 3.79 percent to $153.00 after the company stock was downgraded to “Market Perform” rating from “Outperform” rating at Sanford Bernstein.