A third explosion at a Japanese nuclear power plant prompted a warning of "substantial amounts of radiation" leakage, which sent traders around the world into "sell" mode. On pace with their comrades in Asia and Europe, U.S. stocks spiraled into the red at the sound of the opening bell, with nuclear-related and Japan-exposed equities once again blazing the trail lower. As a result of the widespread panic, volume skyrocketed on the CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) – often dubbed the market's "fear barometer" – which took out its closely watched 200-day moving average for just the second time since early October.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA – 11,855.42) was down more than 200 points in early trading, but pared its loss to 137.7 points, or 1.2%. However, Chevron Corp. (CVX) was the lone blue chip to buck the trend, while tech concerns Intel Corp. (INTC) and Cisco Systems (CSCO) led the 29 declining equities with losses of 3.1% and 2.6%, respectively. While the index is now on pace to end the week beneath its 10-week trendline for the first time since late August, the Dow seemed to have found a floor in the 11,700 region, which is also home to its 20-week trendline.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX – 1,281.87) also chipped away at its deficit by the close, but still ended with a loss of 14.5 points, or 1.1%. Finally, the Nasdaq Composite (COMP – 2,667.33) swallowed a loss of 33.6 points, or 1.3%, surrendering its foothold atop the 2,700 level. What's more, the tech-rich COMP is now in danger of ending the week beneath both its 10-week and 20-week trendlines for the first time since Aug. 27.
Oil falls 3.5% as Japanese nuclear crisis intensifies
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan warned of a “substantial” radiation leak as the effects of last Friday’s earthquake and tsunami grew grimmer.
A new blast and fire rocked a nuclear plant where workers were already trying to avert meltdowns in three reactors.
On the other hand, Bahrain declared martial law a day after Saudi Arabian forces arrived in the kingdom, escalating concerns about supply disruptions. By the close, April-dated crude oil futures shed $3.63, or 3.5%, to end at $97.56 per barrel. In electronic trading, the front-month contract deepened its slide in the wake of the Fed's monetary statement.