Stocks are ending the day with small losses after a 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck Japan.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell as many as 96 points in morning trading, but recovered most of its losses after a tsunami warning was lifted.
The Dow fell 17.26 points, or 0.1 percent, to 12,409.49 The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 2.03, or 0.2 percent, to 1,333.51. The Nasdaq composite fell 3.68, or 0.1 percent, to 2,796.14.
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 pared their losses after the impact of the latest quake appeared to be less than initially feared.
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 10 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 7 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.
KLA-Tencor fell 5 percent, the most out of any company in the S&P 500. The chip manufacturer gets 14 percent of its revenues from Japan.
Netflix, Inc. also fell, dropping 3 percent a day after the home-entertainment company announced its decision to pay nearly $1 million per episode to stream the TV series "Mad Men." Dish Network Corp. emerged as a new competitor after announcing it would buy Blockbuster Inc. out of bankruptcy.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note inched was flat at 3.55 percent.
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.
Three stocks fell for every two that rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated trading volume was 4 billion.