Asian markets shocked by risk of nuclear disaster in Ukraine

Posted 04 March, 2022

Asian markets fell in unison on Friday, sounded by deep concerns over Ukraine, where Russian fire caused a fire at Europe's largest nuclear power plant, which Kiev said was finally brought under control.

Radioactivity levels remain unchanged at the site of the Zaporizhzhia power plant, which has six nuclear reactors and provides much of Ukraine's energy, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has assured, according to which no "essential" equipment has been damaged.

According to Kiev, a Russian tank fire on the plant set fire to a building dedicated to training and a laboratory on Friday. The emergency services said they were able to access the site and extinguish the fire, after being prevented from doing so by Russian soldiers.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Moscow of resorting to "nuclear terror" and wanting to "repeat" the Chernobyl disaster.

Shocked, Asian stock markets almost all went off the rails on Friday.

In Tokyo, the flagship Nikkei index tumbled more than 3% in the session, to end on a fall of 2.23% to 25,985.47 points (-1.8% over the whole of the past week). The broader Topix index dropped 1.96% on Friday to 1,844.94 points.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index yielded 2.74% around 6:45 a.m. GMT, and mainland China squares also ended clearly in the red.

The New York Stock Exchange had already been depressed on Thursday by the lack of progress in the Russian-Ukrainian talks for a ceasefire, the two sides have only found an agreement on humanitarian corridors for the civilian population. fleeing the fighting.

"The attack on the largest nuclear power plant in Europe will generate uncertainty for the whole" of the continent, beyond the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, commented Hideyuki Suzuki of SBI Securities.

"Echoes of the fire at the nuclear power plant in Ukraine have further reduced investors' appetite for risk," also commented Huh Jae-Hwan of Eugene Investment & Securities, quoted by the Bloomberg agency.

The euro depreciated against the yen, trading after 0700 GMT for 127.25 yen against 127.78 yen on Thursday at 2100 GMT.

The European currency fell to $1.1013 from $1.1066 on Thursday, where it had already fallen to its lowest level in nearly two years against the greenback.

The yen was almost stable against the dollar, at 115.51 yen to the dollar against 115.46 yen Thursday at 9:00 p.m. GMT.

Oil prices were on the rise again after a pause on Thursday following their soaring to record levels since 2008: shortly after 07:00 GMT the price of a barrel of American WTI gained 1.44% to 109.22 dollars, and that of a barrel of Brent from the North Sea took 1.21% to 111.80 dollars.

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