By Benjamin Pimentel and Rex Crum, MarketWatch
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Technology stocks led a broad market retreat Wednesday, with major sector leaders such as International Business Machines Corp. and Apple Inc. joining the slump spurred by reported comments from a European Union official about the state of Japan's nuclear disaster.
The Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) fell 1.9% to close at 2,617, losing its gains for 2011. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) lost 242 points to close at 11,613.
Other tech-related indexes in the red included the Morgan Stanley High Tech 35 Index (MSH), which lost 2.3%, and the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index (SOX), which was down 2.2%.
IBM (IBM) fell 3.8% to close at $153. Big Blue was the biggest decliner among Dow components. Sanford Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi also downgraded IBM's rating to market perform from outperform.
Also negative were shares of Microsoft Corp.(MSFT), which shed 2.4% to close at $24.79, and Intel Corp. (INTC), which was off 1.85% to close at $19.81.
Apple Inc. (AAPL) shares slid 4.5% to close at $330.01 after JMP Securities analyst Alex Gauna downgraded the stock to market perform from market outperform.
Gauna said an Apple manufacturing partner in Asia was showing sales-growth deceleration even before the devastating Japan quake.
On Tuesday, Apple announced it was delaying the launch of its iPad 2 tablet in Japan.
Netflix Inc. (NFLX) shed 1.5% to close at $213.84 a day after the stock rose almost 8%. The Wall Street Journal reported that Netflix was in talks to distribute an original TV series developed by director David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey.
Meanwhile, shares of Xilinx Inc. (XLNX) and Altera Corp. (ALTR) posted gains.
Shares of Rambus Inc. (RMBS) also rose 4% to close at $19.52 a day after the chip-design company said it had renewed a patent license agrement with Toshiba Corp. Shares of Toshiba (TOSYY) dropped about 10% to close at $4.10.