Forex Pros – Asian stock markets were broadly lower on Thursday, amid mounting fears over the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe in Japan, the world’s third largest economy.
During late Asian trade, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slumped 2.05%, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index shed 0.6%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropped 1.44%.
Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Greg Jaczko indicated on Wednesday that the Japanese nuclear crisis was even graver than Japanese officials had outlined in public, and recommended a “much larger radius” for evacuations than Tokyo had imposed.
Shares in Tokyo Electric Power, operator of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi power plant plunged 13.3%, dropping to the lowest price since 1982. The stock has plummeted nearly 60% this week.
Meanwhile, shares in Japanese exporters were broadly lower after the yen surged to an all-time high against the U.S. dollar, dampening the outlook for export earnings.
Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he was closely watching the yen given “nervous movements” and “speculations” in the market.
The world’s largest automaker Toyota saw shares slump 2.25%, shares in digital camera maker Canon dropped 3.35%, while shares in Fanuc, an industrial-robot manufacturer that gets nearly 80% of its revenue overseas tumbled 4%.
Elsewhere, Australia’s largest uranium producer Paladin Energy saw shares tumble 9.5%, while shares in nuclear reactor manufacturer Energy Resources retreated 6.2% after China halted approvals for new nuclear power plants pending changes to safety standards.
The outlook for European equity markets, meanwhile, was upbeat. The EURO STOXX 50 futures pointed to a gain of 1.49%, France’s CAC 40 futures indicated an increase of 1.31%, the FTSE 100 futures pointed to a rise of 1.13%, while Germany’s DAX futures were up 1.44%.
Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish official data on initial jobless claims. The country was also to publish government data on consumer price inflation, industrial production and the capacity utilization rate. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia was to publish an index of manufacturing activity.
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