|The damaged Unit 1, left, and Unit 2, right, of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant are seen in Okumamachi, Fukushima Prefecture.|
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks settled lower on Monday as investors worried about the impact of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan Friday, and as the nuclear crisis in the country deepens. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 62 points, or 0.5%, to close at 11,983. The S&P 500 lost 7 points, or 0.6%, at 1,297 and Nasdaq shed 14 points, or 0.5%, at 2,701. Shares of General Electric ( GE) led the Dow lower, shedding 2.2% to $19.92 at the closing bell. GE supplied one of the reactors at Tokyo Electric's ( TOELF.PK) Fukushima nuclear plant, which has been rocked by two explosions in the last three days.
The latest explosion Monday is at the plant's No. 3 reactor, which authorities have been trying to cool after a system failure in the wake of the earthquake. Hundreds of people in the vicinity of the plant have been ordered to stay indoors, although the plant operator has said the radiation levels were still within legal limits. The disaster has raised concerns about the U.S.'s own nuclear and energy policy, with uranium stocks coming under pressure. Shares of uranium companies in the U.S. including Denison Mines ( DNN) and Uranium Resources ( URRE) plunged more than 22% in the wake of the nuclear crisis in Japan. "The nuclear power industry will come under scrutiny, and accordingly, nuclear-oriented stocks will fall," Luminous Capital partner Alan Zafran said in a note. "A number of governments may delay or even reconsider plans to expand their atomic energy strategies. Conversely, natural-gas stocks and other companies whose fortunes are tied to alternative energy techniques may rise as investors anticipate a correlating shift in consumption for their services."
Japan's Nikkei tumbled 6.2% on Monday, the first full trading day following the quake. Bank of Japan voted Monday to double the size of its asset purchase program to a record 15 trillion yen ($183.7 billion) to ease liquidity concerns as Japan's heavily debt-burdened economy deals with the impact of what government officials have called its biggest crisis since World War II. The U.S. dollar/yen was volatile Monday with the dollar down 0.2% at 81.691 yen.
Shares of Toyota ( TM) and Honda ( HMC) were each finished down more than 3.5% after they were forced to shut down auto plants in Japan. Other Japanese ADRs including the stocks of Sony ( SNE) and Panasonic ( PC) fell more than 4.5% each. Coach ( COH) and Tiffany ( TIF) were among the biggest losers on the S&P 500. Both luxury retailers have been expanding in Japan. Elsewhere in commodity markets, the April gold contract gained $4.70 to $1,426.50 an ounce. The April Natural gas contract rose 2 cents to $3.91 per British thermal unit on expectations that Japan's nuclear crisis would drive up demand. Natural gas plays were firmly in positive territory at the end of the trading session. Chesapeake Energy ( CHK) rose 2.3% to $33.56, Southwestern Energy ( SWN) gained 4% to $38.38 and Range Resources ( RRC) added 2.9% to $49.92. Specialist LNG shippers saw their stocks rise sharply. Tsakos Energy ( TNP) advanced 7.8% to $10.11, while Golar LNG ( GLNG) jumped 9% to $20.32, having earlier touched $20.53, a 52-week high. The benchmark 10-year Treasury was up 9/32, with the yield weakening to 3.369%. The dollar weakened against a basket of currencies with the dollar index down by 0.5%.
. --Written by Shanthi Bharatwaj and Andrea Tse in New York.