Tokyo Shares End Day Down 11%
By V. PHANI KUMAR in Hong Kong and COLIN NG and GA-WOON PHILIP VAHN in Singapore
Asian shares tumbled Tuesday as Tokyo's stock benchmark plunged 11% on panic selling amid worries that a possible nuclear catastrophe in Japan would further complicate and endanger the nation's recovery from its worst earthquake on record.
The Nikkei Stock Average finished 11% lower at 8,605.15 after sliding more than 14% earlier in the day, pressured by news of explosions at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's No. 2 and No. 4 reactors, on top of previous blasts at the Nos. 1 and 3 reactors.
Japan's Nikkei slumped 10.6%, dragging regional and global benchmark indexes down, on concerns over the country's radiation levels. WSJ's Jake Lee and Isabella Steger discuss.
Coming on top of a 6.2% fall Monday, the performance is the Nikkei's worst since its Oct. 16, 2008, drop of 11.4%, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
"What the world is watching right now is whether Tepco's Fukushima nuclear power plant is going to turn into Chernobyl," said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, referring to the world's worst nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986 in present-day Ukraine.
Investor wealth of $364 billion—9.4% of the Tokyo stock exchange's market capitalization—was wiped out during the session after Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said there is a high risk of elevated radiation levels from the nuclear reactors and urged people within 30 kilometers (about 20 miles) of the plant to stay indoors. The Tokyo metropolitan government said radiation levels in the capital surged to 23 times the normal level Tuesday.
Ranking among the major losers in Tokyo, shares of Tokyo Electric Power Co. dropped 25%, Toshiba Corp. fell 20% and Fast Retailing Co. shed 18%.
In the futures market, the Nikkei June contract fell 820 points to close at 8,640 on the Osaka Securities Exchange, where circuit breakers were triggered during the session, prompting a temporary trading halt.