U.S. Markets

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

The S&P 500 Index was down 10.30 points, or 0.78 percent, at 1,314.16. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 117.53 points, or 0.95 percent, at 12,263.58. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.96 percent.

Shares of Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) declined 6.02percent to $16.70 as 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 after Goldman Sachs warned that the recent commodities boom is probably running out of steam. Chevron Corp. (NYSE:CVX) declined 3.34 percent to $104.18and Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE:XOM) fell 2.33 percent to $83.18.

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.

European Markets

European stock markets advanced in early trade on Wednesday ahead of economic reports that are expected to show that European factory orders and American retail sales increased.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index gained 0.43 percent to 277.42. DAX30 advanced 35.15 points or 0.49 percent to 7,138.06 and CAC 40 rose 41.20 16.05 or 0.40 percent 3,992.65, while FTSE 100 advanced 27.69 points or 0.46 percent to 5,992.16.

Alcatel-Lucent SA shares climbed 5.7 percent to 3.98 euros after the company stock was upgraded to “overweight” rating from “equal weight” rating at Morgan Stanley.

Nokia OYJ declined 1 percent to 6.002 euros after the company stock was downgraded to “underweight” rating from “equal-weight” rating at Morgan Stanley.

Asian Markets

Asian stock markets advanced for the first time in three days on Wednesday as gains from technology shares offset declines in resource-relates shares and Japanese car makers climbed after a brokerage upgrade

Tokyo shares ended higher, led by gains from car makers after Nomura Holdings upgraded the sector. Nomura Holdings Inc. said they were oversold and expects a sharp post-quake recovery in the second half of the business year. Benchmark Nikkei gained 0.90 percent or 85.92 points to 9,641.18.

Among the automakers, Honda Motor gained 3.31 percent to 2,957 yen and Nissan Motor rose 2.87 percent to 716yen, while Toyota Motor gained 1.38 percent to 3,285 yen.

Canon Inc. gained 2.1 percent to 3,635 yen after the company stock was upgraded to a “buy” rating from “hold” rating at Deutsche Bank.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced 158.66 points or 0.66 percent to 24,135.03 and Chinese Shanghai composite gained 0.95 percent or 28.56 points to 3,049.93, while South Korean Seoul composite advanced 32.52 points or 1.56 percent to 2121.92.