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Stocks, Oil, Gold Falling as Japanese Index Plummets 1,000 Points

"it's not unusual."

Stocks are headed for a sharply lower opening Tuesday, and bond prices are rising, as the nuclear crisis in Japan intensifies following a deadly earthquake and tsunami. But commodities such as oil and gold are also falling, a phenomenon some say is the result of widespread uncertainty.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average fell more than 1,000 points, or 11 percent for the day. The index fell 6 percent Monday.

In the U.S., Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 271 points, or 2.3 percent, to 11,655 ahead of the opening bell.

Standard & Poor's 500 index futures fell 35 points, or 2.7 percent, to 1,255. Nasdaq 100 index futures fell 70, or 3.1 percent, to 2,220.

Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at New York-based brokerage house Avalon Partners, said fear had taken hold in the market as traders worried about the nuclear crisis and a possible slowdown in Japan's economy, the world's third-largest.

"It's a situation where you sell, and you ask questions later," he said.

Oil prices fell $3.95 to $97.22 as analysts anticipated lower demand in the aftermath of the earthquake.

"It's a combination of uncertainty and risk aversion," Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg tells CNBC about the oil drop. "It's not really fundamental concerns that Japan, one of the largest oil consumers, will be missing over the next few months. It's more sentiment that is depressing the prices of risk assets such as equities and commodities."

Other commodities, including gold, silver and copper, also fell.

Gold was down over one percent on Tuesday, after gaining about 1 percent on Monday. But that, one analyst says, is partly because people are using it to cover other losses.

"We argue that it's not unusual for gold to tumble during initial episodes of a severe broad asset sell-off. Investors sometimes have little choice but to sell the yellow metal to cover margin calls and losses elsewhere before gold then divorces itself from the downtrend," UBS strategist Edel Tully tells CNBC.

"In the current climate there is more opportunity for gold to rally, as the need for safe havens accelerates," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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