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Markets Swoon; Some Companies Leaving Tokyo

March 16, 2011

Markets swooned today on continuing bad news from Japan. Here is the low down. I recommend using Reuters World, BBC Asia, Guardian UK, and the Australian Times to augment your news gathering.

MarketWatch reports: The Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/10wi:dji/delayed (DJIA 11,613, -242.12, -2.04%) , down nearly 300 points at its low, finished with a loss of 242.12 points, or 2.04%, at 11,613.3. It lost 2011 gains at one point but managed to end up 0.3% for the year.

Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index /quotes/comstock/21z!i1:in\x (SPX 1,257, -24.99, -1.95%) ended down 24.99, or 1.95%, at 1256.88, sinking to a yearly loss of 0.06%. The Nasdaq Composite /quotes/comstock/10y!i:comp (COMP 2,617, -50.51, -1.89%) fell into the red for 2011 and stayed there, closing down 50.51, or 1.89%, at 2616.82.

Here are some points of interest:

BBC Asia reports: Japanese media have became more critical of Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s handling of the disaster, and have accused both the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co of failing to provide enough information on the incident.

AP reports: Potential release of uranium and plutonium would create a much more hazardous situation according to Dan Sprau, an environmental health professor and radiation safety expert at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. “If that escapes,” Sprau said, “you’ve got a whole new ball game there.”

Developments are unfolding so rapidly in Japan that I begged off most of today trying to keep up with it all. What I am seeing on Bloomberg is many companies are moving their employees from Tokyo to Osaka. There is low radiation being picked up in Tokyo.

Here is a partial list:
Morgan Stanley
BNP Paribas
Standard Chartered

Deutsche Lufthansa said it was diverting flights away from Tokyo to Osaka and Nagoya, while Air China cancelled flights to the Japanese capital from Beijing and Shanghai.

At Hong Kong’s international airport, many passengers arriving from Tokyo said they were relieved to have left.

BBC Asia: In other developments:

* After losing $620bn (£385bn) in the first two days of this week, Japan’s stock market rebounded to finish Wednesday up by 5.7%
* Britain advised its nationals currently in Tokyo and to the north of the capital to consider leaving the area
* France urged its nationals in Tokyo to leave the country or move south; two Air France planes were sent to begin evacuation
* Australia advised its citizens to consider leaving Tokyo and the most damaged prefectures
* Turkey warned against travel to Japan

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