Japan markets remain in focus as nuclear troubles continue

| March 28, 2011 | 0 Comments
Japan markets remain in focus as nuclear troubles continue

Japan and its equities markets remained in focus Monday as more radioactive water was discovered outside containment vessels at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power facility north of Tokyo, which was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan on 11 March.

There were also reports that traces of plutonium, which fuels one of the Fukushima reactors, were discovered in soil outside the plant, but officials downplayed the notion that the discovery represented a health hazard and speculated that only two of the samples were from the plant, blaming other samples on residue from old atmospheric nuclear tests.

The Topix index added 0.05 percent to 857.85 in Tokyo, but the Nikkei 225 was down 0.6 percent to 9,478.53 and the Mothers market dropped 1.98 percent to 439.73, while markets in the region were mixed on the session.

Tokyo Electric Power, which runs the Fukushima plant, dropped another 18 percent on the session, while plant closures continued to hurt the technology sector.

Australia’s markets also declined, with the Sydney Ordinaries down 0.17 percent to 4,831.9 while the S&P/ASX200 dropped 0.19 percent to 4,735.6, the Hang Seng fell 0.39 percent to 23,068.2 in Hong Kong, Singapore’s Straits Times Index was 0.44 percent lower to 3,057.38 and the Taiex was down 0.67 percent to 8,553.06 in Taiwan.

Among markets that saw gains, the Kospi added 0.11 percent to 2,056.39 in South Korea, while the Shanghai Composite was up 0.21 percent to 2,984 and India’s Sensex gained 0.68 percent to 18,943.1.

European equities markets were mostly higher as new data from the United States, including reports that consumer spending was up 0.7 percent in February and that pending sales of existing homes added 2.1 percent, while several officials from the US Federal Reserve called for reexamination of the Fed’s stimulus programs, suggesting that the US economy is now strong enough to end the programs.

The FTSE 100 was up 0.06 percent to 5,904.49 in London, while the FTSE 250 gained 0.07 percent to 11,637.4, with insurers and the travel and leisure sector mostly higher, while the energy sector was mixed and most miners and homebuilders saw declines.

The FTSE Eurofirst 300 was up 0.07 percent to 1,125.42 while the CAC-40 added 0.12 percent to 3,976.95, with luxury goods retailers among the biggest climbers in Paris, and the IBEX added 0.38 percent to 10,751, but the Dax dropped 0.11 percent to 6,938.63 as motor vehicle manufacturers led declines in Frankfurt.

New York equities markets were slightly higher in midday trade as the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.18 percent to 12,242.5 at just before 1 p.m. in New York, while the S&P 500 added 0.16 percent to 1,315.88 and the Nasdaq Composite was 0.06 percent higher to 2,744.59.

Gains on Wall Street were limited by concerns about the nuclear disaster in Japan, where radioactive water continues to leak from the Fukushima facility there, and by continuing political conflict in North Africa and the Middle East.

Crude oil prices were lower in New York and London, but not by much, while metals prices also fell, with copper down by 6 cents per pound in midday trade.

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