U.S. markets

U.S. stocks fell on Tuesday as Alcoa sales missed estimates and energy stocks declined as oil prices plunged more than 3 percent.

The S&P 500 Index declined 11.72 points, or 0.89 percent, to trade at 1,312.68 at 1:15 p.m. EDT. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 122 points, or 0.99 percent, to trade at 12,259.11. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 1.03 percent.

Shares of Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) plunged 6.87 percent to $16.53as its first quarter revenue fell short of expectations. The New York-based aluminum producer said its first quarter sales grew 22 percent to $5.96 billion, but fell short of analysts' forecast of $6.07 billion. Earnings from continuing operations were $309 million or 27 cents a share, compared to a loss of $194 million or 19 cents a share last year.

Energy sector share declined as oil prices plunged 3.4 percent to $106.18 a barrel after warned that the recent commodities boom is probably running out of steam. Chevron Corp. (NYSE:CVX) declined 3.47 percent to $104.05 and Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE:XOM) fell 2.71 percent to $82.85.

Meanwhile, Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said it has raised the accident levels at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant to level 7 Major Accident. The 1986 Chernobyl accident is the only other nuclear accident to have been rated a Level 7 event.

On the economic front, the US trade gap narrowed slightly less-than-expected in February, following a surge in the previous month. The US trade deficit of goods and services fell to $45.8 billion in February compared with a deficit of $47 billion in November and against analysts’ expectations of $45.7 billion in February.

The euro advanced 0.36 percent to 1.4487 against the dollar and the yen advanced 1.08 percent against the greenback.

European Markets

European stock markets declined on Tuesday as concerns over Japan nuclear crisis weighed on the sentiment, while commodity related shares declined due to lower energy and metals prices.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index declined 1.69 percent to 276.24. DAX30 declined 101.95 points or 1.42 percent to 7,102.91 and CAC 40 fell 62.10 points or 1.54 percent 3,976.60, while FTSE 100 declined 88.97 points or 1.47 percent to 5,964.47.

Japan nuclear agency has raised severity level of the crisis at a stricken nuclear plant Tuesday to rank it on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. According to Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, the amount of radiation emission released at the Fukushima plant was equivalent to 10 percent of Chernobyl.

Oil producers declined as crude oil for May delivery fell to $106.01 a barrel. British Petroleum declined 2.83 percent and Royal Dutch Shell fell 2.57 percent.

Among mining shares, BHP Billiton declined 3.32 percent and Rio Tinto fell 2.76 percent, while Xstrata Plc plunged 4.05 percent.

SGL Carbon SE declined 5.87 percent to 37.16 euros after the company stock was downgraded to “underweight” rating from “neutral” rating.

Game Group Plc. slumped 8.33 percent after the company stock was downgraded to “sell” rating from “neutral” rating at UBS.

Consumer prices in Britain slowed for the first time in eight months in March, dampening expectations over interest rate hike by the Bank of England in the near term. UK consumer price index (CPI) rose 4 percent in March year-on-year compared with 4.4 percent in February, while markets expected CPI to remain unchanged at 4.4 percent in the month.

Asian Markets

Asian stock markets ended lower on Tuesday, led by declines from commodities after International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its outlook for the US economy.

The IMF's World Economic Outlook has put world economic growth at 4.4 per cent this year, down from five per cent last year. It has forecast the world's biggest economy, the US, to expand by just 2.8 per cent in 2011, compared to its previous forecast of three per cent, saying lackluster jobs growth and high oil prices will hold the recovery back.

Tokyo shares declined after Japan nuclear agency has raised severity level of the crisis at a stricken nuclear plant Tuesday to rank it on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Benchmark Nikkei declined 1.69 percent or 164.44 points to 9,555.26.

Exporters’ shares declined as yen gained against dollar and euro. Sony Corp. declined 2.87 percent and Nikon Corp. declined 3.3 percent, while Canon Inc. fell 1.11 percent.

Commodity shares fell as energy and metals prices declined. Inpex Corp. declined 5.19 percent to 620,000 yen.

Hong Kong shares ended lower as energy stocks plunged after a sharp pullback in crude-oil prices. Hang Seng index fell 326.70 points or 1.34 percent to 23,976.37 and Chinese Shanghai composite gained 0.02 percent or 0.58 points to 3,022.33.

Cnooc Ltd. declined 2.88 percent to HK$19.86 and PetroChina Co. plunged 4.86 percent to HK$11.74 as crude oil prices fell below $109 on profit taking.

South Korean Seoul composite declined 32.99 points or 1.55 percent to 2,089.40. Samsung Electronics declined 1.34 percent and Hyundai Motor fell 2.91 percent, while LG Chem Ltd. declined 3.2 percent.