Japan Markets Narrow Losses Amid Nuclear Crisis


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Japan's markets narrowed losses Thursday as the response to the country's nuclear crisis continues. The yen, meanwhile, weakened slightly from an all-time high against the dollar.

Japan's broad TOPIX share index ended down 0.8 percent on Thursday after a volatile session, amid a deepening nuclear crisis and following the yen's surge to an all-time high versus the dollar.

The yen spiked around four percent against the dollar, initially driven by speculation that Japanese insurers would have to repatriate funds to pay for massive claims.

That run-up set off a wave of stop-loss and options-related selling that sent the currency rocketing as far as 76.25 to the dollar, before easing to around 79.25.

The full extent of the economic damage is yet to be known, with several coastal towns ravaged and production plants hampered by supply shortages. Power cuts have also hit several quake-affected towns.

Japan's finance minister, Yoshihiko Noda, blamed speculation for the spike in the yen and said he would closely watch market action.

Hundreds of billions of dollars have been wiped off global stock markets since the disaster in Japan.

Seoul shares opened nearly 2 percent lower on Thursday as Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis pushed investors to sell down risky assets.

Shares in Samsung Electronics fell 1.6 percent and KEPCO Engineering Construction tumbled 4.9 percent.