U.S. stocks ended lower on Tuesday as mounting fears about Japan's escalating nuclear crisis sparked sell-offs in financial markets around the world, but positive remarks from the Federal Reserve helped the indexes rebound from the day’s lows.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 137.74 points, or 1.15 percent, at 11,855.42. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 14.52 points, or 1.12 percent, at 1,281.87. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 33.64 points, or 1.25 percent, at 2,667.33.
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.
Equities nearly halved their losses after the Fed stuck with its ultra-loose monetary policy and said the economic recovery is on a firmer footing, and overall conditions in the labor market appear to be improving gradually.
The Fed also said that it would continue its 600-billion-dollar government bond-buying program as scheduled, and keep interest rates at very low levels for an extended period.
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.
On the corporate front, Shares of General Electric Co. (NYSE:GE) shares declined 1.56 percent to $19.61. The company designed all six of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan.
Among the uranium companies, Denison Mines Corp. declined 7.05 percent and Cameco Corp. declined 0.15 percent, while Uranium Resources plunged 9.71 percent.
Futures on the S&P 500 are up 0.13 percent, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average are up 0.14 percent and Nasdaq100 futures are up 0.41 percent.
The euro declined 0.35 percent to 1.3950 against the dollar and the yen gained 0.01 percent against the greenback. Crude oil futures advanced 1.33 percent to $98.47 a barrel and gold futures advanced 0.52 percent.
European stock markets advanced in early trade on Wednesday after Japanese stock markets rebounded from recent hefty losses.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index advanced 0.55 percent to 267.79. DAX30 gained 69.96 points or 1.05 percent to 6,717.62, CAC 40 advanced 12.03 points or 0.32 percent 3,792.88 and the FTSE 100 declined 4.65 points or 0.081 percent to 5,690.63.
Munich Re gained 2.65 percent to 108.30 euros after the company stock was upgraded to “neutral” rating from “underperform” rating at BofA Merrill Lynch.
In the banking sector, BNP Paribas declined 1.25 percent and Barclays Plc. declined 1.64 percent after Moody’s Investors Service cut its rating on Portuguese government debt by two notches to A3 from A1.
Zodiac Aerospace climbed 3.79 percent to 48.74 euros after the company said its first-half revenue rose 1.31 billion euros compared to 966 million euros in the same period last year.
Associated British Foods Plc. surged 4.46 percent after the company stock was upgraded to “outperform” rating from”neutral” rating at Credit Suisse.
Asian stock markets ended higher on Wednesday, with Japanese shares leading the gains as investors swung back into the buying mode after recent hefty losses.
Tokyo shares rallied on Wednesday after losing more than 16 percent in the last two days on Japan’s devastating earthquake and unfolding nuclear crisis. Benchmark Nikkei surged 5.68 percent, its biggest one-day gain since November 2008, or 488.57 points to 9,093.72.
Meanwhile, the nuclear crisis in earthquake-ravaged Japan has hit a new peak of worry – engineers are concerned that two more reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex may have become unstable. Plant operators were considering the removal of panels from units 5 and 6 reactor buildings to prevent a possible buildup of hydrogen.
Among the automakers, Toyota Motor surged 9.13 percent to 3,345 yen after the company said it will reopen seven factories in central Japan from Thursday morning, while Honda Motor advanced 3.9 percent and Nissan Motor gained 6.16 percent.
Among the financials, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group surged 4.38 percent to 381 yen and Mizuho Financial Group climbed 5.3 percent to 137 yen after plunging nearly 20 percent in the last two sessions.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced 22.63 points or 0.10 percent to 22,700.88 and Chinese Shanghai composite gained 1.20 percent or 34.85 points to 2,931.10. Yanzhou Coal mining gained 1.87 percent to HK$24.45 and Jiangxi Copper advanced 1.07 percent to HK$23.50.
South Korean shares ended higher, led by gains from technology and steel producers companies. Seoul composite advanced 34.05 points or 1.05 percent to 1,957.97. Samsung Electronics gained 3.02 percent and LG Electronics advanced 0.98 percent, while POSCO rose 2.33 percent.