Global stocks hit six-week low on Japan quake
LONDON (Reuters) - World stocks hit a six-week low Monday driven by a 7.5 percent slide in Tokyo shares, while oil tumbled as concerns grew about the economic impact of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Japan scrambled to avert a meltdown at a stricken nuclear plant Monday, after a hydrogen explosion at one reactor and exposure of fuel rods at another rocked by Friday's quake.
The cost of insuring Japanese debt against default rose to 10-month highs of 91 bps in the five-year credit default swaps market according to Markit, and analysts are revising down their growth forecasts for the country.
"There will be a negative impact on GDP, though we have to take into account the positive impact of the rebooting demand, that could offset the negative impact in the third quarter," Takihide Kiuchi, Nomura's chief economist for Japan, told investors in a conference call.
Kiuchi added that Nomura was likely to revise down its first quarter GDP forecast for Japan by 0.5 percentage points to 0.7-0.8 percent and slice 0.3-0.4 percent off its 2011 growth forecast to 0.9-1.0 percent.
The MSCI world equity index fell to levels last seen in late January, before trimming losses to trade down 0.46 percent at 11:55 a.m. The Thomson Reuters global stock index fell 0.9 percent.
U.S. stock futures dropped, indicating a lower open on Wall Street.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index hit the year's lows and was down 0.7 percent at 11:55 a.m.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei index fell 6.2 percent, having hit a four-month intraday low at one point. The broader TOPIX index slumped 7.5 percent.
It was the biggest one-day fall in Japanese stocks since October 2008, with record-high trading volumes seen among the Tokyo Stock Exchange's biggest companies. Rolling blackouts started in the greater Tokyo area Monday, paralysing factories, buildings and households.
Emerging market stocks rose 0.65 percent as the damage to the world's third-largest economy eased inflation fears in China and other fast-growing economies.
The yen reversed early gains after the BOJ doubled its asset buying scheme to 10 trillion yen and supplied record funds to banks Monday to shore up confidence.
"The yen might gain from capital repatriation flows after the quake, but the BOJ probably won't tolerate an excessive rise," said Roberto Mialich, currency strategist at Unicredit in Milan.
U.S. crude oil fell 1.5 percent to $99.66 a barrel on concern about a short-term hit to demand in Japan, the world's third-largest oil consumer.
The dollar fell 0.1 percent against a basket of major currencies while the yen rose 0.15 percent to 81.78 per dollar.
The euro rose to $1.3950, Bund futures fell and euro zone peripheral debt outperformed after European policymakers surprised markets over the weekend by reaching some significant agreements ahead of the March 24-25 heads of state meeting.
The summit agreed to increase the lending capacity of the European Financial Stability Fund to its full limit of 440 billion euros (381.2 billion pounds) and also lowered the interest rate charges for funds extended to Greece.
The cost of insuring Greek debt against default fell by 105 bps to 940 bps, according to Markit. Other peripheral credit default swaps also fell, with the exception of Irish CDS, as Ireland's bailout terms were not improved at the summit.
(Additional reporting by Neal Armstrong, Jeremy Gaunt and Natsuko Waki; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
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