U.S. stocks ended lower on Thursday after a major aftershock in Japan triggered new fears about a nuclear crisis, but better-than-expected jobless claims data and monthly retail sales data held losses in check.

The S&P 500 Index was down 2.03 points, or 0.15 percent, at 1,333.51. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 17.26 points, or 0.14 percent, at 12,409.49. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.13 percent.

Earlier Dow Jones Industrial Average declined nearly 100 points on news that another massive earthquake measuring 7.4 on Richter hit Japan at 11:32:41 pm with the epicenter about 250 miles from Tokyo.

Stocks recovered from earlier losses after Japan’s NHK World TV reported that all tsunami alerts in the country have been lifted.

Economic data on Thursday was positive; the applications for jobless benefits in the U.S. fell more than expected last week, recording a second consecutive weekly decline. Initial jobless claims in the US dropped by 10,000 to 382,000 compared with the revised figure of 392,000 in the previous week, while markets had expected the jobless claims to fall to 385,000 in the week.

Most of the U.S. retailers reported better than expected same-store sales results in March despite poor weather and higher gasoline prices. Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ:COST) shares gained 3.77 percent and Limited Brands Inc. (NYSE:LTD) gained 1.62 percent after reporting better than expected March sales.

Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc. (NASDAQ:BBBY) stock surged 10.45 percent as its fourth quarter earnings and revenue topped Street view.