US stocks tumble in a harried session, driven by fear over the continuing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, as a small band of engineers races to avoid a catastrophe. The situation in Japan is still chaotic, and it’s clearly having an effect on investors.
Indexes went into a tailspin late in the morning after the EU’s energy commissioner suggested the situation at Fukushima Daiichi was out of control; the rebounded somewhat after Tokyo Electric, which runs the plant, appeared close to hooking up a new power supply that could run the pumps that provide water to cool the nuclear fuel.
Nikkei futures were down sharply, but also recovered some ground.
At the close, DJIA loses 242 (2%) to 11613, falling as much as 300 points intraday, S&P 500 slides 25 (2%) to 1257, Nasdaq Comp tumbles 51 (1.9%) to 2617. NYSE volume is heavy. Nasdaq, S&P now down for the year; Dow is close. Dow’s now down bit more than 6% from February highs.
For the Dow, it was the biggest drop since Aug. 11; the index has lost 431 points, or 3.6%, the last three sessions, and is down seven of the last nine sessions. All 30 of the index’s components fell today.
All ten of the S&P 500′s sectors fall, with tech and industrials falling the most. Materials and financials are close by. Tech’s fall was amplified by Apple, which got a rare downgrade, from JMP Securities, albeit to only neutral. Still, it was the first downgrade on the stock since October.
A lot of focus was on the Japanese yen, which hit a record high against the dollar as money continues to flow into the currency. Whether that money is for repatriation, or just speculators, isn’t completely known.