Heavy fall for FTSE

World markets suffered heavy declines today amid fresh fears over Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis and a lacklustre start to the US earnings season.

Heavy fall for FTSE

World markets suffered heavy declines today amid fresh fears over Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis and a lacklustre start to the US earnings season.

A slide in oil prices added to the pressure, with the FTSE 100 Index closing down 89 points at 5964.5 - a fall of 1.5%.

Markets were hit after Japan's nuclear safety agency raised the severity of the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis to the highest level on the seven-strong scale and the same rating as the Chernobyl incident in 1986.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index fell 1.7%, sparking heavy falls on both sides of the Atlantic.

Across Europe, France's Cac 40 and the Dax in Germany finished 1.5% and 1.4% lower respectively.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wall Street dropped 1% in early trade as confidence was also impacted by results from Alcoa on Monday night as America's largest aluminium producer missed sales targets for the first quarter - a poor kick-off for US first quarter earnings.

Dire monthly sales figures from the British Retail Consortium and a cut to economic growth forecasts by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) added to the gloom.

There was some relief for investors in London after official figures showed an unexpected drop in inflation to 4% during March, from 4.4% in February.

While this reduced the chances that interest rates will have to rise soon, the pound weakened against the dollar and euro as a result.

Sterling fell to $1.63 and €1.12.

Silver miner Fresnillo topped the fallers board in London with a drop of 85p to 1576p, while a 3% drop in crude oil prices - to just over 106 dollars a barrel - sent energy stocks lower.

Oil giant BP fell 13.5p to 461.4p, while Royal Dutch Shell eased 62.5p to 2208p.

Investors took the latest retail figures in their stride as Tesco rose 2.9p to 398.1p and Sainsbury's added 1.1p to 338p in the FTSE 100 Index.

And three retail stocks with figures out later in the week made headway as WH Smith added 2.8p to 453.6p, Debenhams lifted 0.6p to 64.9p and JD Sports Fashion rose 36.5p to 901.5p.

Elsewhere in the FTSE 250 Index, National Express shares were 5% higher after it emerged activist shareholder Elliott Advisers had won the support of the transport company's second-biggest shareholder for its plans to install three new directors. The move is significant as Elliott, which is National's biggest shareholder, is pressing the bus and coach operator to consider a merger and pursue a more aggressive growth strategy.

Shares were 10.8p higher at 250.1p, while potential merger partner Stagecoach edged 0.8p lower to 213.6p.

The biggest Footsie risers were Carnival up 110p up 2476p, International Consolidated Airlines Group ahead 9.6p to 225.1p, Whitbread up 17p at 1663p and TUI Travel up 2.3p at 232.4p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Fresnillo down 85p to 1576p, Antofagasta off 74p to 1411p, Kazakhmys down 74p to 1419p and Anglo American down 152.5p to 3187p.

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