Amlin leads London insurers lower after Japan earthquake

| March 11, 2011 | 0 Comments
Amlin leads London insurers lower after Japan earthquake

Equities markets in Europe were lower Friday, with big declines coming for the insurance sector after a magnitude 8.9 earthquake, followed by a tsunami, hit northern Japan.

The quake hit at mid-afternoon local time and was centered about 240 miles northeast of Tokyo, with the city of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture closest to the epicenter of the quake, which was centered offshore.

Damage was widespread in northern Japan, and the quake was felt and there was some damage in and around Tokyo, while tsunami warnings were issued for as far away as the coasts of California and Oregon in the United States.

There was some damage as tides surged in Hawaii, where some mandatory evacuations were ordered, while minor damage was reported in at least one California harbor, where boats came unmoored and were set adrift to collide with other vessels.

The FTSE 100 was down 0.28 percent to 5,282.67 in London, while the FTSE 250 dropped 0.92 percent to 11,409.5.

Insurers were lower, led by Amlin (LSE: AML), which mostly insures commercial enterprises and was down 5.01 percent, followed by Catlin Group (LSE: CGL) with a decline of 4.45 percent, while Lancashire Holdings (SLE: LRE) fell 3.85 percent, Beazley (LSE: BEZ) was down 2.6 percent and RSA Insurance Group (LSE: RSA) dropped 2.56 percent.

The only gainer in London’s insurance sector was St James’s Place (LSE: STJ), which was 0.73 percent higher.

The energy sector was mostly lower, but four of the six gainers in the sector were among the five biggest gainers on either the 100 or the 250.

Heritage Oil (LSE: HOIL) led gains in the energy sector, adding 3.13 percent on the 250, followed by BG Group (LSE: BG), which was 2.89 percent higher to lead gains on the 100, while Tullow Oil (LSE: TLW) was up 2.74 percent and Cairn Energy (LSE: CNE) gained 1.54 percent.

Sportswear retailer JD Sports Fashion (SLE: JD) was the best performer on the 250, adding 5.32 percent after it said it will not bid for sportswear and sporting goods retailer JJB Sports (LSE: JJB), which was down 10 percent on the announcement.

Sporting goods retailer Sports Direct International (LSE: SPD) followed JD higher, adding 2.34 percent, while the worst performer in the retail sector was internet grocery merchant Ocado Group (LSE: OCDO) with a decline of 2.93 percent.

Dixons Retail (LSE: DXNS) was down 2.28 percent after Citigroup cut its recommendation on the consumer electronics retailer from “buy” to “hold”.

The FTSE Eurofirst 300 was down 0.74 percent to 1,123.35 while the IBEX fell 0.36 percent to 10,398.4, the CAC-40 was 0.89 percent lower to 3,928.68 and the Dax dropped 1.16 percent to 6,981.49.

Telecommunications group Cable & Wireless International (LSE: CW) led declines on the 250 as it fell 5.24 percent after it said its chief financial officer is leaving in July, while credit information group Experian (LSE; EXPN) had the worst day on the 100, dropping 3.14 percent.

Markets in the Asia-Pacific region were lower Friday after the earthquake in Japan, which hit while Tokyo markets were still open.

The Nikkei 225 was down 1.72 percent to 10,254.4 in Tokyo, bringing its losses for the week to 4.1 percent, while the Topix index dropped 1.65 percent to 915.51 and the Mothers market was 0.92 percent lower to 494.83.

Most sectors saw declines in Tokyo, but Japanese construction companies soared as investors thought about the extensive rebuilding that will be necessary in northern Japan, where damage from the quake and tsunami was worst, with Fukoda Corp (TYO: 1899) up 30 percent while Ueki Corp (TYO: 1867) added 23 percent.

Elsewhere in the region, the Shanghai Composite was down 0.79 percent to 2,933.8 while India’s Sensex fell 0.84 percent to 18,174.1, the Taiex was 0.87 percent lower to 8,567.82 in Taiwan and the Straits Times Index dropped 1.04 percent to 3,043.49.

The S&P/ASX200 was down 1.17 percent to 4,644.8 in Australia, while the Sydney Ordinaries dropped 1.18 percent to 4,734.8.

South Korea’s Kospi fell 1.31 percent to 1,955.54, while the Hang Seng dropped 1.55 percent to 23,249.8 in Hong Kong.

Equities markets were higher in New York, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 0.2 percent higher to 12,008.8 in early afternoon trade, while the S&P 500 added 0.48 percent to 1,301.27 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.46 percent to 2,713.49.

The gains came after the Commerce Department said that US retail sales were up 1 percent, more than expected, in February.

Crude oil prices were lower, with April contracts for West Texas Intermediate crude down $1.71 to $100.99 per barrel at around 1 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude was last reported down $1.44 to $113.99 per barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London.

The decline in crude prices came on concerns that demand will fall in Japan as a consequence of the earthquake there, and also after scheduled demonstrations in Saudi Arabia drew only a few hundred protesters, none of them in Riyadh, the nation’s capital.

Metals prices were higher in early afternoon trade in New York.

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