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The yen rose against all of its major counterparts as risk in Japan of radiation leaks from crippled nuclear power stations boosted speculation that insurers will repatriate assets to pay for earthquake damages.
Stocks sank, with the Nikkei 225 index posting its biggest two-day drop since 1987. The MSCI World Index fell 2.9 percent while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index lost 2 percent.
Currencies of commodity-exporting countries plunged as speculation increased the explosions at the nuclear power station will damp demand for raw materials.
“The yen is strengthening across the board,” said Michael Woolfolk, senior currency strategist in New York at Bank of New York Mellon Corp., the world’s largest custodial bank, with more than $20 trillion in assets under administration. “We’re seeing follow-through yen buying off of renewed risk aversion emanating from Japan.”
The Swiss franc advanced to a record against the dollar on demand for a refuge as Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan said his government is doing everything it can to contain the radioactive leaks following last week’s earthquake and tsunami. The euro pared losses against the U.S. currency even as European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet called “insufficient” a package of economic-oversight rules adopted by European Union finance ministers.
The Federal Reserve will release its interest rate decision at the end of its meeting today. Policy makers are almost certain to fulfill their plan to buy $600 billion in Treasuries. How they finish the purchases and what they do next is a matter of disagreement.
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