Asian stocks outside Japan edged up on Monday, with demand for commodity-related shares offsetting the steep drop in Japanese markets following a massive earthquake and tsunami.
Construction and refinery shares across the region saw healthy demand on hopes of bigger profits because of large-scale reconstruction efforts as the country battled to prevent a nuclear catastrophe after the natural disasters that may have killed more than 10,000 people.
The FTSE CNBC Asia 100 Index , which measures markets across Asia, was lost 2.1 percent.
Japan's Nikkei share average closed down 6.2 percent to 9,620.49 , the biggest single-day decline in two years to the lowest since November 2010, with technology companies such as Kyocera and Canon among the biggest drags on the market.
The broader Topix fell 7.5 percent to 846.96, posting the biggest daily decline since October 2008, and bond yields rose on Monday as investors expected the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country's northeast to take an economic toll and require heavy government borrowing.
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. After an explosion on Monday, authorities were working desperately to avert a plant meltdown.
Fears of more aftershocks and further repercussions from the damaged nuclear power plant would probably continue to keep investors on edge and weigh on the market this week.
The yen also slid against the dollar on hedge fund selling after the Bank of Japan announced a total of 15 trillion yen in fund injections to keep money markets stable.
Japanese automakers, electronics firms and oil refiners saw their share prices drop by double digit percentages at one point after having to shut key factories after Friday's earthquake and tsunami, which are feared to have killed more than 10,000 people and severely damage infrastructure.
Shares of Tokyo Electric Power, Japan's biggest utility that owns a nuclear plant that may be close to meltdown, were a big focus for the market. TEPCO ended ask-only at 1,621 yen, down 23.6 percent.
Construction-related businesses rallied on the back of expectations for demand from rebuilding efforts, with Kajima jumping 22.2 percent and Taiheiyo Cement climbing 21.2 percent.
In the month after the earthquake in Kobe in January 1995, construction stocks outperformed the broader market consistently for a year after the disaster, Citi research showed.
Australia Edges Lower, Uranium Miners Pounded
Australian shares fell for the fourth straight day on concerns that Japan's devastating earthquake will reduce short-term demand for key raw materials, but the market trimmed early losses as investors considered stocks oversold.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index lost 0.4 percent to end at 4,626.4, after being down as much as 1.7 percent shortly after the open.
Uranium miners were pounded after Japan's scramble to avoid a nuclear disaster at several power generators raised concerns about the future of the industry.
Energy Resources of Australia, a unit of global miner Rio Tinto fell 12.2 percent while Paladin lost 16.5 percent.
Extract Resources, which owns the Husab project, a promising 257-million pound resource that borders Rio Tinto's Rossing mine in the southern African nation of Namibia, dropped 7.7 percent.
Steel makers were among the winners after several Japanese steel firms stopped production on Monday as the country imposed power cuts to cope with the devastation. The outages raised concerns that Japan may not be able to meet domestic demand and may be forced to import.
BlueScope Steel rose 7.8 percent, its biggest daily gain since June 2009, while OneSteel gained 1.7 percent.
Insurers fell as investors expected the quake in Japan to further raise reinsurance costs. Insurance Australia Group fell 2.6 percent, Suncorp 1.3 percent and QBE Insurance 1 percent.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.6 percent to end at 3,361.2.
Steelmakers, Refiners Lift Seoul Shares
South Korean shares reversed earlier losses to end higher as steelmakers and refiners jumped after a deadly quake and tsunami in Japan, lifted by expectations of production disruptions there.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) ended up 0.8 percent at 1,971.23 points.
Refiners rallied, with shares in S-Oil spiking 13 percent and SK Innovation gaining 6.7 percent.
Memory chip makers jumped, boosted by 5-6 percent gains in spot prices of key DRAM chips, according to DRAMeXchange, a semiconductor industry tracker.
Shares in the world's No.1 memory chip maker Samsung Electronics rose 4.4 percent and Hynix, the world's No.2, surged 8.7 percent.
Steelmakers were lifted by supply concerns and expectations of higher demand from reconstruction efforts. POSCO, the world's No.3 steelmaker, rallied 8.3 percent, and Hyundai Steel spiked 10.1 percent.
Shares in shipbuilders however slumped on concerns they may face higher steel plate prices.
Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering fell 5.1 percent and STX Offshore & Shipbuilding lost 13.3 percent.
Seafood processors also rose on expectations of a supply squeeze in Japan. Dong Won Fish and Sajo Oyang both gained 15 percent.
Korean Air Line and Hana Tour fell 7.3 percent and 13.7 percent respectively on fears about the impact of the disaster on tourist traffic to and from Japan.
Shares in nuclear power related stocks tumbled amid safety concerns following nuclear facility explosions in Japan.
Nuclear power plant designer KEPCO Engineering & Construction plunged 14.7 percent. KR Plant Service & Engineering, which maintains and operates nuclear facilities, fell 14.8 percent.
China Shares End Higher; Steel Supports
China's main stock index closed up 0.1 percent in the wake of Japan's devastating earthquake on Friday.
Shares of nuclear power plant construction companies tumbled as Japanese authorities battled to prevent a nuclear disaster, but expectations of increased demand for building supplies and better pricing lifted construction-related stocks, especially steel companies.
Baoshan Iron & Steel and Wuhan Iron & Steel both rose 2 percent.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite ended at 2,937.6 points, after a 0.8 percent decline on Friday.
In Hong Kong, stocks ended up helped by infrastructure-related counters, but activity
was thin with some investors remaining on the sidelines awaiting further details of Japan's massive earthquake.
The Hang Seng Index closed up 0.4 percent while steel and coal counters lifted the China Enterprises Index up a percent.
However, local developers underperformed as investors fretted that rising mortgage rates in Hong Kong would crimp the city's hot real estate market. Sun Hung Kai Properties eased 1.4 percent while Cheung Kong Holdings fell 0.7 percent.
In Southeast Asia, Malaysia's KL Composite ended flat, but Singapore's STI slipped 0.4 percent.