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March 16, 2011    

Europe, US equities down again as Asia sees gains

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by Elaine Frei
Europe, US equities down again as Asia sees gains

European and US equities markets were lower Wednesday on concerns about the situation in Japan, especially as conditions at the earthquake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant seemed to be deteriorating, with worries fueled by comments from the European Union’s Energy Commissioner that the plant was “out of control”.

There were also concerns about continuing civil unrest in Libya and Bahrain, while unsatisfactory economic reports from the US tended to push markets lower as well.

On the other hand, markets in the Asia-Pacific region were higher on sentiment that the declines there since an earthquake hit northern Japan on Friday were an overreaction, even with the continuing uncertainties over how much radiation would continue to leak from damaged nuclear facilities.

The FTSE 100 was down 1.7 percent to 5,598.23 in London, while the FTSE 250 dropped 1.06 percent to 11,033.1.

The London banking sector was lower, while most miners and energy companies declined, retailers were mostly lower and insurers were mixed.

Elsewhere in Europe, the FTSE Eurofirst 300 was down 1.43 percent to 1,069.15 while the Dax fell 2.01 percent to 6,513.84, the CAC-40 was 2.23 percent lower to 3,696.56 and the IBEX dropped 2.3 percent to 10,092.6, with markets hurt by the news that Moody’s Investors Service cut Portugal’s debt rating to A3, not far above junk status.

Once again, there were no gainers on the CAC-40 in Paris, while only three companies saw gains on the Dax.

Wall Street saw declines, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 1.9 percent lower to 11,630.4, while the S&P 500 had dropped 1.85 percent to 1,258.11 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 1.78 percent to 2,619.98, all in afternoon trade.

New York equities markets were hurt by a Commerce Department report that new housing starts were down by 22.5 percent in February, from January, the biggest one-month decline in 27 years, while the news that wholesale prices were up by the most in almost two years as food and fuel costs jumped also hurt trade.

Commodities markets in New York, on the other hand, were higher in afternoon trade, with crude oil up just over $1 per barrel and precious metals and copper all seeing gains.

Tokyo’s markets led gains in Asia, as the Nikkei 225 added 5.68 percent to 9,093.72 in Tokyo, while the Topix index was up 6.64 percent to 817.63 and the Mothers market gained 9.93 percent to 399.86, although Tokyo Electric Power (TYO; 9501), which runs the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant fell by its daily limit of 25 percent for the second consecutive session.

Carmakers and banks were both higher in Tokyo.

Elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific, the Hang Seng added 0.1 percent to 22,700.9 in Hong Kong, Australia’s markets were higher as the S&P/ASX200 was up 0.65 percent to 4,558.2, while the Sydney Ordinaries gained 0.74 percent to 4,644, Singapore’s Straits Times Index was up 0.85 percent to 2,971, the Sensex gained 1.05 percent to 18,358.7 in India, Taiwan’s Taiex was 1.09 percent higher to 8,324.58, the Shanghai Composite added 1.19 percent to 2,930.8 and South Korea’s Kospi gained 1.77 percent to 1,957.94.

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