FTSE 100 trades lower on investor confusion on Japanese nuclear situation

<p>The FTSE 100 lost as much as 1% at one point in the afternoon’s session as jittery traders sold equities after the EU’s Energy Commissioner said that […]</p>

The FTSE 100 lost as much as 1% at one point in the afternoon’s session as jittery traders sold equities after the EU’s Energy Commissioner said that the Japanese nuclear plant at Fukushima was ‘out of control’ and that ‘catastrophic events could occur within the coming hours’. There was however a high degree of confusion in the marketplace in response to these comments as the commissioners’ spokeswoman maintained that the EU’s energy chief had no privileged information.

One hopes that the statement issued was closer to politically sensationalism than imminent danger to Japanese citizens but in today’s market where volatility has had a marked increase, traders are taking no risks.

Both the Dow Jones and FTSE 100 sold off sharply in a matter of minutes of these words being spoken with the Dow Jones losing over 100 points within 5 minutes of trading, whilst the UK’s FTSE 100 index also lost 85 points within the same time frame, before bargain hunting helped both Indices regain some ground.

What the afternoon’s session does remind us is just how jittery traders are with the situation in Japan seemingly developing with each hour and information is key to helping traders judge where the risks lay.

Sector wise it is the banking stocks that have weighed on European trading, with HSBC shares the key drag, falling 3% in London. The downgrade by two notches of Portugal’s credit rating by Moody’s, whilst unlikely to have caused much of a surprise, has had an underlying impact on short term banking sentiment, despite Portugal’s treasury minister maintaining that the decision was ‘hasty’.

Woes for insurance firms continued today with the sector losing another 1.7% with shares of Standard Life bearing the brunt of the sector weakness. Standard Life shares have fallen by 5% today to a new 7 month low of 197.50p

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