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Stocks End Lower on Japan Nuclear Crisis

Estimates of the death toll from the disaster continue to climb, with the official estimate at 1,897, according to CNN. Tens of thousands are feared dead, according to The Associated Press, with rescue workers still unable to reach some of the hardest-hit areas of northeast Japan.

Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics noted that the damage done to Japanese ports could make trade disturbances more likely but expects the overall impact from the disaster on the United States to be small.

"The importance of trade with Japan has been trending down for many years as a result of Japan's depression," the economist wrote in his daily note.

"The Japanese economy will be even weaker after the quake than before, though U.S. companies exporting capital equipment might enjoy a boost from reconstruction work. We simply don't know for how long the flow of goods to [the] U.S. from Japan will be disrupted, but there will be some impact on the flow of goods and parts," wrote Shepherdson.

Asian markets finished mixed. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.4% and India's Sensex rose 1.5%. In Europe, Germany's DAX lost 1.7%, while the U.K's FTSE fell 0.9%.

The April crude oil contract was flat at $101.21 a barrel. Crude oil prices fell Friday on fears that demand from Japan, the third largest consumer of oil, will drop.

Meanwhile, tensions in the Middle East appear to have temporarily taken a back seat in investors' minds in the wake of Japan's crisis. Rebel forces in Libya fled the coastal oil town of Brega as President Moammar Ghadafi's supporters gained ground. Ghadafi's forces have been bombing the insurgents' base in Benghazi as well.

Fears that protests could spread to Saudi Arabia, however, appear to have abated somewhat after Friday's "day of rage" protest passed by relatively peacefully.

There were no economic reports scheduled for release Monday.

In corporate news, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) agreed to acquire specialty chemicals company Lubrizol (LZ) for $9 billion in cash, making it one of the largest acquisitions in Berkshire's history. Berkshire will pay $135 a share, a 28% premium to Lubrizol's closing price on Friday. Shares of Lubrizol ended up 27.7% to $134.68. Shares of Berkshire Hathaway ended down 1.3% at $84.21.
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