Shares in European insurers and reinsurers fell sharply in early trading on Friday after Japan was hit by a massive earthquake, one of the biggest ever recorded.
The quake, which measured 8.9 on the Richter scale, hit off the northeastern coast and caused a 10-metre-high tsunami to hit the coast. There was little news on casualties but local media said four million homes were without power.
Large reinsurers — Swiss Re, Hannover Re and Munich Re — were all down more than 4 percent, off their early lows with detail still scant.
“It is too early to tell what the impact will be. The situation is still unclear and is fluid. We are unable to say anything at the moment. It usually takes one to two weeks until we can tell what the impact will be,” Tom Armitage, a spokesman for Swiss Re said.
“Japan is within the top 10 of our markets. Swiss Re generated a total of $688 million in life and non-life in Japan out of a total of $25 billion globally,” he said.
British, French and German insurers were also among the casualties in early trade, with Aviva down more than 2 percent, Allianz down 1.7 percent and AXA down 1.3 percent against a 1.8 percent fall in the wider STOXX Europe 600 Insurance index.
“The (insurance) sector is down slightly more than the overall market as the quake in Japan heaps more misery on a sector hit by the severe weather in the UK last year,” Mic Mills, head of electronic trading at ETX Capital, said.
(Additional reporting by Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt, Katie Reid in Zurich and Tricia Wright in London; Editing by Dan Lalor)
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