U.S. Markets

U.S. stocks ended higher on Friday led by gains from Oil refiners after the earthquake disrupted Japan's refining capacity and and equipment makers advanced on expectations for increased demand from rebuilding efforts.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 74.66 points, or 0.62 percent, at 12,059.27. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 10.81 points, or 0.83 percent, at 1,305.92. The Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 17.73 points, or 0.66 percent, at 2,718.75.

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The devastating earthquake measuring 8.9 on Richter scale went rampaging through Japan triggering a massive tsunami with 12-foot waves inundating the northern coastal region.

Among the energy companies, Tesoro Corp. (NYSE:TSO)surged 8.45 percent to $24.51and Valero Energy Corp.(NYSE:VLO) climbed 6.31 percent to $27.98.

Among the Dow components, 3M , Caterpillar and Alcoa gained more than 1percent, energy giants Exxon Mobil advanced 0.91 percent and Chevron advanced 0.86 percent.

AK Steel holding Corp. (NYSE:AKS)climbed 5.75 percent to $15.46 , Titanium Metals gained 4.29 percent and Fluor climbed 4.16 percent.

On the economic front, the Commerce Department reported that retail sales rose 1.0 percent in February, the largest gain since October and in line with expectations, while U.S. consumer sentiment fell to its lowest level in five months in early March as gas prices rose.

Oil prices dropped to near $101 a barrel in U.S. on Friday, after a powerful earthquake measuring 8.9 magnitude on Richter scale hit off Japan.

European Markets

European stock markets ended lower on Friday, led by declines from insurance stocks after a powerful earthquake measuring 8.9 magnitude on Richter scale hit off Japan.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index declined 0.89 percent to 275.42. DAX30 declined 81.60 points or 1.16 percent to 6,981.49, CAC 40 fell 35.31 points or 0.89 percent 3,928.73 and the FTSE 100 declined 16.62 points or 0.28 percent to 5,828.67.

European reinsurers slumped on prospects of big losses following the powerful earthquake. Swiss Reinsurance Co. plunged 3.92 percent and Munich Re declined 3.9 percent.

K+S AG declined 4.74 percent after BASF SE announced plans to sell its remaining stake in the potash maker, a holding that’s valued at about 1 billion euros.

Asian Markets

Asian stock markets declined on Friday, following the slump in Wall Street overnight as weaker than expected economic reports from US and overseas added concerns to the strength of economic recovery.
Tokyo shares ended lower, led by declines from exporters. Nikkei slumped 1.72 percent or 179.95 points to 10,254.43.

Honda Motor declined 2.64 percent to 3,310 yen and Toyota Motor fell 1.5 percent to 3,595 yen, while Canon Inc. declined 0.78 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index declined 365.11 points or 1.55 percent to 23,249.78 and Chinese Shanghai composite fell 0.73 percent or 21.54 points to 2,935.61. CNOOC Ltd. Plunged 3.2 percent to HK$17.5 and HSBC Holdings Plc. Declined 1.07 percent to HK$82.80.

China swung to a surprise trade deficit in February of $7.3 billion, its largest in seven years, as the Lunar New Year holiday dealt an unexpectedly sharp blow to exports. Exports grew 2.4 percent in February against analysts’ estimation of 26.2 percent, while imports rose 19.4 percent against expectations of 32.3 percent.

South Korean shares ended lower on economic worries and earnings outlook. Seoul composite declined 26.04 points or 1.31 percent to 1,955.54. Hyundai Motor plunged 3.18 percent and Kia Motor declined 1.62 percent.

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