Japanese stocks fell the most in more than two years amid record trading volume after the nation’s strongest earthquake snarled production lines and shut factories, raising concern economic growth will stall.
The Osaka Securities Exchange, Fukuoka Stock Exchange, Nagoya Stock Exchange and Sapporo Securities Exchange operated as usual, according to their websites.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., Asia’s biggest power generator battling to avoid a meltdown at its Fukushima nuclear plant, plummeted 24 percent.
Toshiba Corp., a maker of nuclear reactors, tumbled 16 percent.
Tokio Marine Holdings Inc., the nation’s largest property and casualty insurer by market value, plunged 12 percent.
Automakers retreated after Japan’s three-largest carmakers said thousands of new vehicles were damaged. Construction companies climbed.
Insurance companies had the largest decline among the 33 industry groups in the Topix. Tokio Marine tumbled 16 percent. MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings Inc. plunged 11 percent. Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co. plummeted 18 percent.
The 8.9-magnitude temblor and subsequent tsunami may have killed 10,000 people in Miyagi prefecture north of Tokyo, said Go Sugawara, a spokesman for the prefectural police department. The official toll reached 1,627 confirmed deaths with 1,720 more missing and 1,962 injured, the National Police Agency said. More than 350,000 people are in emergency shelters.
European stocks dropped for a fourth day, led by a selloff in reinsurers and utilities, as Japan battles to prevent a nuclear meltdown following its largest earthquake on record.
Swiss Reinsurance Co. and Munich Re both lost more than 3 percent after AIR Worldwide said the industry may face claims of as much as 2.8 trillion yen ($34 billion).
E.ON AG (EOAN) fell 5.3 percent on concern explosions at two reactors in Japan may persuade Germany to backtrack on extending the life of atomic plants.
Banks limited losses as the European Union agreed on a retooled bailout plan for the region’s most indebted nations.
Europe’s benchmark Stoxx 600 has retreated for three consecutive weeks as crude oil surged to a 29-month high amid political unrest and violence in the Middle East and Libya. Since reaching a 2 1/2-year high on Feb. 17, the gauge has declined more than 5 percent.
Troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council, including soldiers from Saudi Arabia, moved into Bahrain after more than a month of political unrest in the island nation. Mainly Shiite protesters have been demonstrating since Feb. 14 for free elections and political change, inspired by movements that have swept the region in the past two months and unseated rulers in Tunisia and Egypt.
Losses in Europe were limited after European Union leaders struck an agreement on an expanded bailout plan for the region’s most indebted nations, two weeks sooner than investors anticipated. National benchmarks in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece all climbed today.
U.S. stocks came off session lows but finished in the red Monday, after Japan's leading stock index plunged in reaction to last week's massive earthquake and tsunami.
The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) closed down 51 points points, or 0.4%. Earlier in the session, it had lost as many at 147 points. The modest decline was led by a 2% slide in shares of General Electric (GE, Fortune 500), following news that the company designed all six of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan.
S&P 500 (SPX) fell 8 points, or 0.6%, as shares of luxury retailers Coach (COH) and Tiffany & Co. (TIF) -- which have been building their presence in Japan -- slid more than 5%. Nuclear power plant operator Entergy (ETR, Fortune 500) was also a big loser, dropping 4.9%
Meanwhile, the tech-heavy Nasdaq (COMP) lost 15 points, or 0.5%.
Companies: U.S.-traded shares of some companies based in Japan were down sharply in early trading Monday.
Shares of Canon (CAJ), based in Tokyo, were down 4%. Toyota (TM) shares were off 5%, while Sony (SNE) was down 7%.
Stateside insurance companies, including Hartford Financial Services Group (HIG, Fortune 500) and Aflac (AFL, Fortune 500) -- which generates almost 75% of its revenue in Japan, also took a big hit. Shares of both insurers fell about 3%.