Bangkok: Asian markets were mostly lower on Tuesday, as Japan’s inability to tame a nuclear crisis cast a shadow over investment sentiment.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index dropped 1.2% to 9,606.72, amid frantic — and unsuccessful — efforts to control a radioactive leak at a nuclear plant damaged by a monster earthquake and tsunami that struck off the country’s northeastern coast on 11 March.
Shares of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Inc., the utility known as TEPCO that operates the plant, have been in a free fall since the disaster, nose-diving a staggering 80%.
On Tuesday, the stock hit an all-time low after dropping 12% in the morning session. TEPCO’s coastal Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant has been leaking radiation since the quake and tsunami knocked out its crucial cooling systems, leading to explosions and fires.
The company is now struggling to contain radioactive water leaks. Shares in Japan’s powerhouse export sector also skidded downward, hit hard by supply chain disruptions and power shortages that have forced many factories to suspend or reduce output.
Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s largest automaker, dropped 2.7%. Honda Motor Corp. slid 2.5%, and Nissan Motor Corp., slumped 2.7%.
“The disruption to Japanese supply chains is beginning to become apparent. Honda is slowing its North American production, but it also announced it will resume homeland production in two weeks,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a report, adding that Nissan was cutting output in China by 10%.
Elsewhere, South Korea’s Kospi index dropped 0.3% to 2,109.41. Benchmarks in Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia were also lower. Markets in Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan were closed for a public holiday.
Australia’s S&P ASX 200 rose 0.3% to 4,899.80. New Zealand’s benchmark also was higher. The Bank of Japan meets this week and investors will be looking to see if it enacts any further policy measures.
The central bank has pumped billions of yen into the economy to keep liquidity flowing through the system. It has also received international support to stem the export-sapping appreciation of the yen following last month’s disaster.
Benchmark crude for May delivery was down 24 cents to $108.23 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract settled at $108.47 per barrel on Monday, a fresh 30-month high as fighting in Libya and unrest in the Middle East continued to raise doubts about future supplies.
In currencies, the dollar rose to 84.33 Japanese yen from 84.04 late Monday in New York. The euro was lower at $1.4190, from $1.4216.
Trading volume was light on Wall Street on Monday. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.2% to 12,400.03. The S&P 500 rose less than a point to 1,332.87. The Nasdaq composite fell less than a point to 2,789.19.