Nuclear Catastrophe Sinks Japanese Shares

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Asian markets closed lower Tuesday. In Japan the Nikkei 225 Index plunged 10.6% to 8,605. In Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index slid 2.9% to 22,678 and in China the Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.4% to end the day at 2,896.

Japanese shares are enduring a tsunami of their own as investors pull money out of a market that is becoming more and more unstable by the day. "If you have stability of forecasts and stability of data, that allows people to invest," Russell Investments's chief market strategist told Bloomberg. "That's why markets sell off when something goes from being uncertain to being unknowable."

Radiation Reaches Dangerous Levels

Japan's situation is worsening by the minute as Prime Minister Noto Kan warned that radiation levels are now reaching dangerous levels as a result of further explosions at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant. Authorities in Tokyo, less than 150 miles from Fukushima, have detected higher radiation levels, although they are still insisting that the levels are not harmful to human health.

Shares in Tokyo Electric, which runs the Fukushima plant, plunged 24.7%. The fallout from Japan's crisis will most probably include lost business abroad -- already countries like Switzerland and Germany have suspended plans to build and replace nuclear plants until safety standards are re-assessed, according to the New York Times. And shares in blue chip companies that build nuclear reactors also nosedived. Toshiba careened 19% and Hitachi tumbled 13%. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries slumped 11% and Japan Steel works, which makes nuclear plant components dived 16%.

The Bank of Japan's $98 billion injection into the country's financial system was not enough to keep financial institutions buoyant in the face of such crisis. Mizuho Financial dropped 10%, Mitsubishi UFJ slumped 8.8% and Sumitomo Mitsui gave up 7.2%.

Hefty Losses Affect Every Sector

Building firms, which had seen increases in the wake of the disaster, were pummeled today. Taisei fell 13.9%, Kajima declined 13.1% and Obayashi sank 10.2%.

In Hong Kong fears are growing that nuclear fallout could affect a wider region. The Hong Kong Observatory says, "The chance of radiation from Japan reaching Hong Kong in the next several days is slim." But for those hearing pollution ratings of "fine" when the air outside is soupy, this may not be much of a comfort. Today property shares sank with Hang Lung plunging 6.3%, Henderson Land sliding 4.4% and Sun Hung Kai losing 3.4%. China Resources Land fell 3%, New World Development dropped 2.9% and Cheung Kong slipped 2.9%.

Insurers suffered severe losses with Ping An falling 6.1% and China Life down 3.3%. Banks also fell with Industrial & Commercial Bank of China off 2.9%, Bank of China and Bank of Communications both losing 2.2%.

In China manufacturers of nuclear-related products sustained steep losses. China First Heavy Industries sank 6.3% and Dongfang Electric slid 5.2%

Chinese coal producers closed lower on worries that the suspension of Japanese production will cut the usually large orders for Chinese coal. Yanzhou Coal Mining dropped 5.1% and China Shenhua Energy fell 2.7%.


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