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World stocks weak amid uncertainty in Japan, Libya

World stocks weak amid uncertainty in Japan, Libya

World stocks were skittish Wednesday following a retreat on Wall Street as the staggering toll exacted by Japan's worst-ever earthquake came into sharper focus and uncertainties grew about the outcome of Western military action against Libya.
The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo closed down 1.7 percent to 9,449.47 after the government announced that damage from the catastrophic March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which is still paralyzing the country's industrial northeast, could reach $309 billion.
Shares in Europe dropped in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.2 percent to 5,753.11. Germany's DAX was 0.2 percent lower to 6,768.68 and France's CAC-40 was narrowly down at 3,890.82. Wall Street was headed for another day of losses, with Dow Jones industrial futures down 0.1 percent to 11,942 and S&P 500 futures down 0.1 percent to 1,286.40.
Japan's disaster also triggered a crisis at a nuclear power plant that led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and widespread power cuts due to the shutdown of 11 of Japan's 54 nuclear power plants.
Two of the country's flagship brands _ Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. _ have put off a return to normal production due to shortages of parts and raw materials because of earthquake damage to factories. Toyota, the world's No. 1 automaker, said it will suspend output until Sunday _ a production loss of 140,000 cars.
Toyota drooped 1.2 percent and Honda slid 1.8 percent. Other Japanese vehicle makers were pummeled, including Nissan Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motor Corp., both down 2.9 percent.
Elsewhere, South Korea's Kospi eased 0.1 percent to 2,012.18, although a handful of shares registered big gains, including SsangYong Cement Industrial Co. Ltd., jumping 7.4 percent amid expectations that its exports would rise as Japan undertakes its mammoth task of rebuilding.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.1 percent to 22,825.40, with blue chip property developers taking a hit after China announced measures aimed at reining in soaring home prices. The regulations include a requirement by home sellers to make public the sale prices of their properties, state news agency Xinhua said.
China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd. dropped 1.9 percent, and China Resources Land Ltd. was down 1 percent. Both are listed on the Hong Kong exchange.
Mainland Chinese stocks rose with the Shanghai Composite Index gaining 1 percent to 2,948.48, and the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index up 1.2 percent to 1,299.99. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand also rose.
Investors, meanwhile, had a separate worry: a crisis in Libya and the real possibility that Moammar Gadhafi could keep his grip on power despite military action by Western nations intended to keep Gadhafi from overwhelming rebel forces trying to end his four-decade rule.
Oil prices hovered near $105 a barrel as violent uprisings in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East kept traders nervous about possible crude supply disruptions. OPEC-member Libya, which produces enough oil to meet nearly 2 percent of world demand, has almost totally stopped shipping it.
The Yonghap news agency quoted South Korea's top central banker, Bank of Korea Gov. Kim Choong-soo, as saying Wednesday that oil prices are not likely to jump to the level seen in 2008, when oil prices peaked at $147 per barrel.
That added to the feeling among many that the crises in Japan and the Middle East won't derail the global economy.
"Despite these worries, many countries are still cautiously optimistic about the resilience of the global economy, and have not lowered their vigilance against rising inflation," DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore said in a report, noting that Thailand and Korea have recently hiked interest rates.
"There is also more talk in China about allowing more yuan appreciation to address inflation," DBS said.
On Wall Street, stocks edged lower Tuesday, ending a three-day rally that had lifted the Dow Jones industrial average above 12,000 for the first time since the earthquake hit Japan nearly two weeks ago.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 17.90 points to close at 12,018.63. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 4.61, or 0.4 percent, to 1,293.77. The Nasdaq composite index fell 8.22, or 0.3 percent, to 2,683.87
Benchmark crude for May delivery was up 2 cents to $104.99 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.88 to settle at $104.97 on Tuesday.
In currencies, the euro dropped to $1.4193 from $1.4207 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar fell to 80.83 yen from 80.91 yen.
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Researcher Fu Ting in Shanghai contributed.


Updated : 2021-04-23 07:35 GMT+08:00