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 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.
In late morning European deals, the London market lost 0.53 percent, Frankfurt dived 1.09 percent and Paris shed 1.02 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.
“It is the insurers that have been worst hit by the weaker session today as traders fretted about likely exposures to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami,” said City Index analyst Joshua Raymond.
“The destruction in Japan is convincing investors to cash in some of their (recent) gains in insurance firms, particularly considering it is too early to know exactly what liabilities will be placed on firms as a result of the destruction caused in the region and surrounding areas just yet.”