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Japanese stocks fell for the first time in three days as engineers struggled to connect power to a crippled nuclear reactor and Tokyo officials advised against giving tap water to infants after finding traces of radioactive iodine.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., the owner of the damaged plant, sank 4.5%.
A series of earthquakes struck this morning near the Fukushima plant, starting with a magnitude 6.0 temblor at 7:12 a.m. local time. Quakes of magnitude 4.1, 5.8, 4.9 and 4.3 followed as of 8:03 a.m..
Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s largest carmaker, dropped 1.2% after saying it will halt domestic production through March 26.
Honda Motor Co. fell 1.8% after saying it will suspend production at three Japanese plants until at least March 27.
JTekt Corp., a car-parts supplier, slumped 6.1%.
Daihatsu Motor Co. lost 1.5% after extending a production halt until March 24.
Earthquakes early this morning also damped sentiment, and declines accelerated in the final minutes of trading following the warning on tap water.
On Wednesday, the Japanese government said the quake would cost the nation $300 billion - more than double the cost of the Kobe quake in 1995, according to published reports.
European stocks rose for the fourth time in five days as mining companies climbed with metal prices, outweighing an unexpected drop in U.S. new-home sales and speculation that Portugal’s budget vote may trigger a bailout.
Rio Tinto Group surged 2.9%, leading basic-resource producers higher.
Xstrata Plc (XTA) gained 3.5%. Copper, lead, nickel and tin climbed on the London Metal Exchange.
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. rallied 3.5% as profit doubled.
Inditex SA (ITX) gained 6% after world’s largest clothing retailer reported earnings that topped estimates.
J Sainsbury Plc (SBRY) sank 5.4% as sales growth slowed.
Minutes of the Bank of England’s March 10 meeting published today showed policy makers saw “merit in waiting” to examine the effect of higher oil prices on inflation, boosting speculation it will leave interest rates on hold for longer. Policy makers voted 6-3 to keep interest rates at a record low.
U.S. stocks finished higher Wednesday, thanks to a late-day advance, as investors shrugged off jitters about turmoil in the Middle East and Japan's nuclear issues.
The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) closed 67 points higher, or 0.6%, led by a 3% jump in shares of Alcoa (AA, Fortune 500). Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) was the worst performer on the blue-chip index. The bank said it will need to revise its dividend plan after the Fed rejected the bank's initial proposal.
Companies: Shares of General Mills (GIS, Fortune 500) dropped 1.8%. The cereal maker, which raised prices in October, said its fiscal third-quarter earnings rose 18%, though U.S. sales were slightly lower.
Adobe Systems (ADBE) was the biggest decliner on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq. Shares sank 3.7% after the software maker lowered its second-quarter earnings forecast, saying the earthquake and tsunami in Japan will curb sales.
Shares of homebuilder PulteGroup (PHM) rose 3.6% after Goldman Sachs raised its price target on the stock.
Jabil Circuit's (JBL, Fortune 500) stock jumped almost 11%, leading the gainers in the S&P 500. The electronics manufacturing company posted a profit and sales figures above expectations late Tuesday.
Economy: New home sales in February plummeted 17% from January to hit a record low. Year-over-year, sales were down 28%.
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