U.S. stocks fell in the aftermath of Japan's devastating earthquake on Monday, but other than specific industries such as nuclear power, the broad impact on equities was expected to be short-lived.

Trading volume was unusually low compared with other sell-offs, coming in at 7.68 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, below last year's daily average of 8.47 billion. The recent pullback in stocks had been accompanied by high volume.

I'm encouraged that we're seeing lighter volume on a down day since that could suggest less enthusiasm for selling, said Hank Herrmann, chief executive of Waddell & Reed Financial Inc in Overland Park, Kansas, which manages $90 billion in assets.

Nuclear power stocks fell after explosions at a Japanese plant. The Market Vectors uranium and nuclear energy exchange traded fund slumped 12 percent while the Global X Uranium ETF sank 17 percent. But the Market Vectors Solar Energy ETF of alternative energy shares climbed 7.2 percent.

Shaw Group sank 9.2 percent to $34.87 in the session while Cameco Corp dropped 13 percent to $32.62 on the New York Stock Exchange. Both nuclear power companies traded on volume that was more than 10 times their 10-day average.

General Electric Co , which has combined nuclear ventures with Hitachi Ltd <6501.T>, dropped 2.2 percent to $19.92 and was the top percentage decliner on the Dow.

This is a knee-jerk reaction, but it could put a lid on building new nuclear plants, said James Dunigan, chief investment officer at PNC Wealth Management in Philadelphia, which oversees $105 billion.

Japanese ports handling about 7 percent of the country's industrial output sustained major damage, disrupting the flow of goods globally.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 51.24 points, or 0.43 percent, at 11,993.16. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 7.89 points, or 0.60 percent, at 1,296.39. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 14.64 points, or 0.54 percent, at 2,700.97.

Texas Instruments Inc fell 2.2 percent to $33.80 in extended-hours trading after the chipmaker said it will lose revenues due to production delays at its Japanese facilities from quake-related interruption of power.

U.S.-listed shares of Japanese companies declined and the BNY Mellon index of leading Japanese American Depositary Receipts <.BKJP> lost 5.3 percent. Toyota Motor Co <7203.T>, which said it would suspend production at all its Japanese car plants, fell 4.6 percent to $81.73. The iShares MSCI Japan index exchange traded fund sank 7 percent.

The U.S. benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index came off the session's bottom after falling to a six-week low. The CBOE volatility index <.VIX>, which measures anticipated volatility,

jumped 5.6 percent.

Shares of luxury goods companies worldwide were hit since Japan accounts for 11 percent of global luxury sales. Tiffany dropped 5.3 percent to $59.86 while Coach Inc was off 5.3 percent to $53.11.

Aflac Inc , the largest foreign insurer in Japan, fell 3 percent to $53.90 as experts estimated that the devastating earthquake in Japan could cost the insurance industry nearly $35 billion.

Options activity showed some investors are expecting the stock to plunge more than 8 percent from the current price to about $49 by April expiration, according to Caitlin Duffy, options strategist at Interactive Brokers Group.

Apple Inc rose 0.5 percent to $353.56 after analysts estimated the company sold close to 1 million units of iPad 2, its next-generation tablet computer, during the product's debut weekend.

(Additional reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Kenneth Barry)