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Nikkei Down 10.5%; Estimates on Cost of Disaster Unreliable

The Nikkei was down 10.5 percent againlast night and is now down almost 19 percent in the past 4 trading sessions. While some have been calling the markets decline "irrational" (the Nikkei has moved almost one annual standard deviation in three days, FTalphaville has noted), the unstable situation at the nuclear plants is a real X-factor that justify caution.

In a worst-case scenario, potentially millions of people could be exposed to various degrees of radiation.

Until the nuclear situation stabilizes, estimates of the cost of the disaster are simply not reliable, and speculations about a rebuilding effect—which will certainly happen—are on the back burner.

Elsewhere:

1) Big cap Japanese stocks are again the downside leaders pre-open in New York: Panasonic , Hitachi , Kubota , Sony , are down 5 to 12 percent.

Some stocks are trading with heavy volume. Toyota has already traded nearly half of its normal daily volume, while Canon trading nearly a third of its average daily volume.

2) With silver down 6 percent(and gold down 3 percent), silver stocks like Endeavor Silver , First MajesticSilver , Silvercorp Metals , Thompson Creek Metals are down 6 to 10 percent. Gold stocks like AngloGold Ashanti down mid single-digits.

3) Uranium stocks like Cameco —down big yesterday—are again down. Shaw Group a major construction contractor for the nuclear power industry, is down another 9 percent.

4) Refiners like Tesoro which had big rallies yesterday are all down today.

5) Solar companies like Yingli Green , LDK Solar , Suntech Power are again UP mid single-digits.

6) General Electric down another 5 percent pre-open after dropping 2.1 percent yesterday.

7) Some are noting that today's Fed meeting would be a great excuse to extend QE2, but most believe that is unlikely.

8) Williams-Sonoma beats estimates ($1.08 vs. $0.98 consensus) on a 5.2 percent rise in comps and a 27 percent surge in Internet sales. Same-store sales at its home furnishings brand Pottery Barn were particularly strong, jumping 12 percent. Also helping the retailer's bottom line, higher gross margins and lower expenses. Earnings guidance for the current quarter is inline with current Street estimates ($0.26-$0.28 vs. $0.27 consensus).

8) Hewlett-Packard raised its quarterly dividend 50 percentto $0.12. CEO Leo Apotheker also outlined a long-term strategy that focuses on cloud computing as a center of growth. Furthermore, the company aims to increase its EPS to at least $7 by 2010, a 53 percent increase from last year's EPS.

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  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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