Stock index futures fall on Japan worries

By @ibtimes on

Stock index futures pointed to a lower open on Wall Street on Monday, with futures for the S&P 500 down 0.5 percent, Dow Jones futures down 0.7 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures down 1.1 percent at 0912 GMT (5:12 a.m. ET), as investors fretted about the impact of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

A second hydrogen explosion rocked a stricken nuclear power plant in Japan where authorities have been scrambling to avert a meltdown.

Japanese stocks fell 7.5 percent on Monday as investors expected the earthquake to take an economic toll. The drop, on record-high trading volume among the Tokyo Stock Exchange's biggest companies, was compounded by fears about the long-term impact on power supplies after the earthquake damaged a nuclear generator.<.T>

General Electric Co Chief Executive Jeff Immelt on Monday said it was too early to know what impact the nuclear power crisis in Japan would have on the nuclear power industry.

Japanese ports handling as much as 7 percent of the country's industrial output sustained major damage, disrupting global supply chains and causing billions of dollars in losses, industry officials said.

Auto and electronics makers were among the worst hit. Toyota Motor Co <7203.T>, which said it would suspend production at all its car plants until at least March 16, reducing output by at least 40,000 vehicles, dropped 8 percent. Shares in Toshiba Corp <6502.T> and Hitachi <6501.T> both sank around 16 percent.

European stocks were down 0.8 percent in morning trade, led lower by shares of insurance and luxury shares such as Swiss Re , and LVMH , on worries over the sectors' exposure to Japan. <.EU>

Brent crude touched a two-week low near $111 on Monday, down by nearly $3 on investor pessimism that economic growth will slow after Japan's earthquake and tsunami, while easing unrest in the Middle East threw the focus back onto ample oil supplies.

China faces a tough balance between creating jobs and cooling inflation, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said on Monday, denying that his government risks the kind of political upheaval besetting parts of the Middle East.

U.S. stocks closed the week on a high note on Friday, on relief that unrest did not engulf top oil producer Saudi Arabia, calming some investors who worried the market was entering a near-term slide. Stocks snapped back from early-week losses even as other markets were hit hard by the devastating earthquake in Japan. Oil refiners and industrial-related shares led Wall Street higher.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 59.79 points, or 0.50 percent, at 12,044.40. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> climbed 9.17 points, or 0.71 percent, at 1,304.28. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> added 14.59 points, or 0.54 percent, at 2,715.61.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Erica Billingham)

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