Stocks fell on Monday as investors shunned risk after Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, but the U.S. growth story was seen proceeding on track.

Japanese ports handling about 7 percent of the country's industrial output sustained major damage and disrupted global supply chains in the disasters, which analysts estimated could cost $170 billion.

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>, known as Wall Street's fear gauge, jumped 12.6 percent to its highest level since February 23.

But Wall Street stocks have rallied 23 percent since September, although they faltered in the past two weeks.

Markets are taking risk off the table and the period of consolidation we were in has probably been extended for a bit, said James Dunigan, who oversees $105 billion as chief investment officer at PNC Wealth Management in Philadelphia.

The Japanese economy will likely take a dip on this, but it appears the growth path we're on here won't see a significant detour.

Dunigan added that PNC was unlikely to change its asset allocation as a result of the quake unless the disruption to Japanese GDP is much larger than we currently estimate and there's also an expansion of the instability in the Middle East.

Among sectors hurt the most was the nuclear industry after explosions and damage at a Japanese nuclear plant. In addition, shares of luxury goods companies worldwide were hit since Japan accounts for 11 percent of global luxury sales.

General Electric Co , which has combined nuclear ventures with Hitachi Ltd <6501.T>, dropped 4.1 percent to $19.53 and was the top percentage decliner on the Dow.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 73.68 points, or 0.61 percent, at 11,970.72. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 10.15 points, or 0.78 percent, at 1,294.13. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 16.19 points, or 0.60 percent, at 2,699.42.

The Market Vectors uranium and nuclear energy exchange traded fund slumped 13 percent while the Global X Uranium ETF sank 17 percent. Luxury retailer Tiffany dropped 4.9 percent to $60.10.

Aflac Inc , the largest foreign insurer in Japan, fell 4 percent to $53.35 as experts estimated that the devastating earthquake in Japan could cost the insurance industry nearly $35 billion, making it one of the most expensive disasters ever.

Options activity on Aflac 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.

U.S.-listed shares of Japanese companies also declined while the BNY Mellon index of leading Japanese American Depositary Receipts <.BKJP> lost 6 percent. Toyota Motor Co <7203.T>, which said it would suspend production at all its Japanese car plants, fell 4.8 percent to $81.50. The iShares MSCI Japan index exchange traded fund sank 7.4 percent.

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