By Roland Jackson
World equities slid and the safe-haven yen steadied in volatile trade Friday after a huge earthquake in major economic power Japan, as dealers tracked a eurozone summit and unrest in the Arab world.
A devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake rocked Japan earlier this morning, unleashing a 10-metre high tsunami that tossed ships inland and sparked fears that destructive waves could hit across the Pacific Ocean.
The death toll from the earthquake has now reached 32, including three in Tokyo, according to press reports.
“A perfect storm batters markets,” said analyst Kathleen Brooks at trading site Forex.com.
“Three factors are weighing on market sentiment today: the Japanese earthquake, Spain’s sovereign debt downgrade yesterday (and) continuing problems in the Middle East and the threat this poses to oil supplies.”
“This is having a major impact on stocks, foreign exchange and commodities,” she added.
Asian stock markets plunged, with Tokyo diving 1.72 percent and Hong Kong losing 1.55 percent, while shares sank 1.17 percent in New Zealand, where a fatal quake had killed hundreds in Christchurch last month.
In late morning European deals, the London market lost 0.65 percent, Frankfurt dived 1.07 percent and Paris shed 1.03 percent in value.
The biggest loser in Europe was the insurance sector, which tumbled as traders worried over the prospect of costly claims from the earthquake — which was the most powerful ever recorded in Japan.