European shares fell early on Tuesday after Japan raised the severity of its nuclear crisis to the highest level and Alcoa missed revenue targets as it kicked off the first-quarter U.S. earnings season.
Energy and mining shares fell, tracking oil and metals prices lower, after Goldman Sachs advised investors to lock in commodity trading profits.
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At 0854 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 1.2 percent at 1,132.92 points, falling below its 50-day average, and after falling 0.2 percent in the previous session.
The Euro STOXX 50 volatility index rose 8 percent, hitting a one-week high, while the VDAX-NEW volatility index gained 4 percent.
"Japan is casting a pall over the markets," said Justin Urquhart Stewart, director at Seven Investment Management. "There will also be more issues coming up about euro zone sovereign debts over the next few weeks.
"And Alcoa has raised worries about whether earnings have got as good as they're going to get."
Japan raised the severity of its nuclear crisis to the highest level on Tuesday, putting it on a par with the world's worst nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 because of the amount of radiation released into the air and sea. [ID:nLDE73B01P]
Further, the economic damage from Japan's massive earthquake and tsunami last month is likely to be worse than first thought as power shortages curtail factory output and disrupt supply chains, the country's economics minister warned. [ID:nL3E7FC092]
Miners and energy companies lost ground after Goldman Sachs advised investors to lock in commodity trading profits.
Miners to fall, as Base and precious metals prices slipped, included Anglo American, Eurasian Natural Resources Corp, Kazakhmys and Fresnillo fell between 3 and 3.5 percent.
Brent crude LCOc1 fell to around $123 a barrel, extending overnight losses, on concern high fuel prices will destroy demand. BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total and Statoil fell between 1.3 and 1.8 percent.
Across Europe, Britain's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and France's CAC40 fell between 0.9 and 1.3 percent.
The Thomson Reuters Peripheral Eurozone Countries Index was down 0.4 percent.
The European benchmark is up more than 75 percent from its lifetime low of March, 2009, with several major economies having emerged from recession, helped by stimulus from governments and central banks worldwide.
Two of the Federal Reserve's most powerful officials said on Monday the U.S. central bank should stick to its super-easy monetary policy, arguing inflation is not a threat and unemployment remains too high. [ID:nN11296347]
DELTA LLOYD FALLS
Dutch insurer Delta Lloyd fell 7.7 percent after ,British insurer Aviva reduced its stake in the company. [ID:nLDE73B0FI]
The lower crude price helped travel-related stocks. Cruise operator Carnvival rose 3.1 percent.
International Consolidated Airlines Group, Lufthansa and Air France-KLM gained between 2.1 and 3.1 percent. Some analysts remained upbeat on equities.
"Valuations are not stretched. There's still a lot of strength from companies, particularly from their dividend announcements," said Philip Isherwood , European equities strategist at Evolution Securities, who expects equities to finish the year higher.
Alcoa Inc, the largest U.S. aluminum producer, reported a first-quarter profit that beat estimates, but its revenue missed Wall Street's target. [ID:nN1199754]
(Editing by David Cowell)
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