Stocks opened lower on Wednesday as Japan struggled with a nuclear crisis following its massive earthquake and tsunami and as clashes in Bahrain lifted oil prices.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> fell 55.78 points, or 0.47 percent, at 11,799.64. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 4.99 points, or 0.39 percent, at 1,276.88. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> dropped 14.59 points, or 0.55 percent, at 2,652.74.

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch)