NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The high-beta dry-bulk sector plunged Thursday as investors took leave of anything risky, motivated by fear of European insolvency, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average down nearly 350 points.

When stocks in general move in unison in one direction or another, shipping stocks will often fall or rise that much more.

Leading the pack to the downside Thursday was Excel Maritime ( EXM), which chose the wrong day to release a humdrum first-quarter earnings report that did nothing to stem the tidal wave of selling. Its stock plunged 15.3%, or $1.05, to $5.81.

Excel missed consensus expectations by two pennies, posting an adjusted bottom line of 11 cents a share. Analysts were on average targeting 13 cents a share.

Meanwhile, despite the mayhem on the world's stock exchanges -- perhaps induced by a some kind of mysterious trading error -- ocean-going trade, largely responsible for moving the world's mineral resources hither and yon, was oblivious to the matter.

The going rate for a Capesize ship, for example, jumped 4.7% to more than $40,000 a day, according to the Baltic Exchange, a London ship broker that tracks freight rates.

Elsewhere, DryShips ( DRYS) stock took one on the chin, tumbling 7.5% to $5.21, while Genco Shipping & Trading ( GNK - Get Report), which reported its first quarter earlier this week, lost 7% to $19.84.

Shares of Diana Shipping ( DSX - Get Report), maybe the most conservative of the dry-bulk names, faired no better because of it, giving up 6.6% to $13.50. Eagle Bulk Shipping ( EGLE - Get Report), on the other hand, a famously debt-laden carrier, retreated about the same, losing about 7% to $5.09.

After Thursday's market close, Eagle posted a first-quarter profit a penny better than the sell-side consensus. In after-hours trading, the stock was changing hands at $5.16, up 1.4% from the regular session close.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.