NEW YORK – Stocks fell Thursday after a 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of northern Japan. The losses moderated after a tsunami warning was lifted.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell as many as 96 points in morning trading before recovering most of its losses. Japan's stock market had already closed by the time the earthquake struck.
The quake rattled investors, partly since it struck near the same area as the massive earthquake that triggered devastating tsunami on March 11. Stock indexes bounced back after the impact of the quake turned out to be less than initially feared.
The Dow was down 37 points, or 0.3 percent, at 12,388 in afternoon trading. The broader S&P 500 fell 3, or 0.2 percent, to 1,333. The Nasdaq composite index fell 2, or 0.1 percent, to 2,798. All three indexes had been higher in earlier trading.
In the U.S., economic news was mostly positive. The Commerce Department said 382,000 people applied for unemployment for the first time last week. That was the third drop in four weeks. The decline in applications suggests layoffs are slowing.
Major retailers also reported better-than-expected sales for March at stores that have been open at least a year. Analysts had predicted declines because of cold weather and higher gas prices.
Costco Wholesale Corp. rose 4 percent after reporting a 13 percent gain in sales. Limited Brands Inc. rose 1 percent after it said its revenue increased 14 percent because of strong sales at its Victoria's Secret stores. Nordstrom Inc. and Macy's Inc. also rose about 1 percent.
Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. rose 11 percent, the most of any stock in the Standard & Poor's 500 index. The home furnishings retailer posted strong results late Wednesday and said it expected earnings to rise 10 percent to 15 percent this year.
Constellation Brands Inc. rose 6 percent. The maker of Robert Mondavi wine and Svedka vodka recovered from a loss in the same quarter a year ago and reported a double-digit increase in wine sales in North America.
Bond prices rose, sending their yields lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.54 percent from 3.55 percent late Wednesday.
The European Central Bank raised its main interest rate by a quarter point to 1.25 percent, a day after Portugal asked for a bailout. The Bank of England kept its main interest rate unchanged at 0.5 percent.
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