Fears over Japan's nuclear crisis sent major U.S. stock indexes into negative territory for the year, as the barrage of negative headlines from the country continued.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 254 points, or 2.2%, to 11601 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.1% to 2612. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fell 2.2% to 1253, with every sector losing ground.
As the crisis mounts, the U.S. Embassy warns American citizens living within 50 miles of a crippled Japanese nuclear plant to evacuate or seek shelter, while the U.S. nuclear chief recommended evacuating those living within a "much larger radius" than Japan's government has called for.
Traders said the market's jumpy reaction to officials' comments and warnings underlined the deep current of anxiety among investors.
"There's going to be constant commentary about precautionary measures--certainly they should not be a surprise to anybody, but the reaction you're seeing from the tape tells you people are going to err on the side of selling," said Pete McCorry, senior trader at Keefe Bruyette & Woods. "That's the sentiment we're going to have going forward because quite frankly, no one can tell us definitively when this is going to be over."
Neil Cauvto on Fox News just reported that all the gains from 2011 in the stock market are gone and now is running into the red for 2011.The afternoon losses compounded a late morning slide that followed remarks by the European Union's commissioner for energy, that one of Japan's nuclear plants is "effectively out of control," and that the situation could continue to deteriorate.