U.S. stocks plunged on Tuesday, following sell-off in European and Asian stock markets on escalating fears of a nuclear crisis after a radiation leak was detected at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
The S&P 500 Index declined 21.39 points, or 1.65 percent, to trade at 1,274.65 at 12:45 pm EDT. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 202.19 points, or 1.69 percent, to trade at 11,790.97. The Nasdaq Composite Index declined 1.76 percent.
Japanese stock markets slumped for the second day on escalating fears of a nuclear crisis after a radiation leak was detected at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and residents were warned to stay indoors. Benchmark Nikkei index slumped 10.55 percent or 1,015.34 to 8,605.15 after plunging 6.18 percent in the previous session. Meanwhile the Topix index plunged 9.47 percent to 766.73 and recorded its worst two-day slump since 1987.
Radiation levels rose in Tokyo and some surrounding areas on Tuesday after the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, according to local governments. The amount was believed to be about twenty times higher than normal.
Nuclear experts believe winds carried the radioactive substances hundreds of miles. Tokyo, as well as the Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures (which also reported higher radiation) are about 150 miles away from Sendai, the locale of the damaged nuclear plants.
On the economic front, manufacturing activity in New York State expanded more than expected in March, reaching the highest levels since June 2010. The index showing general business conditions in New York State increased to 17.5 points in January, up 2 points from February.
Investors are also awaiting the FOMC meeting and interest rate decision, which is due to be released at 2:15 pm EDT. The FOMC will probably maintain its current monetary policy as the world’s largest economy is still on its way to recover from the worst recession since the Second World War.
The interest rate is expected to remain unchanged at 0.25 percent. The Federal Reserve kept interest rates at historic lows in the range between 0 percent and 0.25 percent in an attempt to increase consumer consumption and business operations by making borrowing cheaper to revive the economy.
On corporate front, Shares of General Electric Co. (NYSE:GE) shares declined 2.99 percent to $19.33. The company designed all six of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan.
Among the uranium companies, Denison Mines Corp. declined 10.98 percent and Cameco Corp. declined 6.74 percent, while Uranium Resources plunged 15.43 percent.
The euro declined 0.16 percent to 1.3970 against the dollar and the yen gained 1.21 percent against the greenback.
Crude oil futures plunged 2.19 percent to $98.97 a barrel and gold futures declined 2.11percent.