North American stocks fell at the start of trading on Tuesday, with commodity prices retreating and investors growing concerned about the latest twist in Japan's nuclear crisis.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 86 points or 0.7 per cent, to 12,295. The broader S&P 500 fell 9 points or 0.7 per cent, to 1315. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index fell 108 points or 0.8 per cent, to 13,888.
Alcoa Inc. fell 5.1 per cent after it reported its first-quarter financial results on Monday after markets closed. While earnings topped expectations by a penny, the aluminum producer reported relatively disappointing sales figures.
Meanwhile, other commodity producers were down after crude oil and other commodity prices retreated slightly. The International Energy Agency warned that high oil prices would likely moderate with a global economic slowdown. The comments came a day after the International Monetary Fund made similar comments, suggesting that high oil prices are starting to attract attention for their ability to bite into economic growth.
Adding to the concerns, a strategist at Goldman Sachs said that commodities no longer looked attractive on a risk-to-reward basis.
Crude oil fell to $109.41 (U.S.) a barrel, down 51 cents - but the impact on energy producers was more dramatic. Chevron Corp. fell 2.1 per cent and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. fell 2.7 per cent.
U.S. financials were also weak, with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. down about 1 per cent each.
Meanwhile, defensive stocks - which tend to be relatively immune to concerns about economic growth - showed some gains. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Procter & Gamble and McDonald's Corp. rose modestly in early trading.