BANGKOK -- Japanese stocks rebounded Wednesday, recovering some of the massive losses sustained over the last two days following a devastating earthquake and tsunami. Other Asian indices also bounced back even as the human and economic toll from the disasters, including an escalating nuclear crisis, remained unclear.
Oil prices hovered above $97 a barrel after big losses overnight. In currencies, the dollar was up against the yen and the euro.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index briefly surged more than 6% but softened slightly after Japan suspended operations to prevent a stricken nuclear plant from melting down after a surge in radiation made it too dangerous for workers to remain at the facility.
The Nikkei closed up 5.7% to 9,093.72 as traders searched for bargains after a panic selling sent the index spiraling down nearly 11% the day before. The Nikkei on Tuesday closed at its lowest level in almost two years after shedding more than 1,600 points, or 16%, over two days.The plunge prompted Tokyo Stock Exchange President Atsushi Saito to release a statement late Tuesday calling for calm. He noted that foreign investors were net buyers the last two days. "I also believe that Japan's experience, knowledge and technologies in the area of recovering from earthquakes should not be underestimated and that the stock market will calm down soon," Saito said. Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan pumped cash into Tokyo's money markets for a third day in a row, bringing its total liquidity injection to 55.6 trillion yen ($688.3 billion) since Monday. That helped banking shares perk up: Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MTU), the country's biggest bank, was up 2.2%, and Mizuho Financial Group (MFG)gained 5.4%. Japan's powerhouse exporters also caught their breath after suffering staggering losses. Toyota (TM), the world's No. 1 automaker, shot up 9.1%, Sony (SNE) rose 8.8% and truck-maker Isuzu Motors was 10.5% higher. Heavy industry shares rose as the shock of the disaster gave way to thoughts of rebuilding. Kobe Steel soared 15%, and Nishimatsu Construction jumped 5.8% higher. Still, investors kept a close watch on a rapidly changing crisis at a crippled nuclear power plant in northeast Japan. Authorities were still struggling to control the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant after a string of explosions and fires, as well as a burst of radiation.