A look at economic developments and activity in major stock markets around the world Friday:
TOKYO _ Japan's huge earthquake brought super-modern Tokyo to a standstill, paralyzing trains that normally run like clockwork and stranding hordes of commuters carrying mobile phones rendered largely useless by widespread outages.
The magnitude-8.9 quake off Japan's northeastern coast shook buildings in the capital, left millions of homes across Japan without electricity, shut down the mobile phone network and severely disrupted landline telephone service. It brought the train system to a halt, choking a daily commuter flow of more than 10 million people.
Japanese authorities will also release slightly radioactive vapor to ease pressure at a nuclear reactor whose cooling system failed.
The failure occurred after a power outage caused by the earthquake.
Meanwhile, Japanese automakers halted production at assembly plants in areas hit by the earthquake. One Honda worker died after being crushed by a collapsing wall.
Japan's central bank also pledged to do its utmost to ensure financial market stability after the country's devastating earthquake.
The Bank of Japan decided to hold a one-day policy board meeting on Monday instead of its originally scheduled two-day meeting.
Economists said the shortened meeting will enable the central bank to make a quick monetary policy decision to help the country cope with the financial fallout from the earthquake.
BRUSSELS _ The eurozone's weakest states pleaded for more help from their richer neighbors at a summit in Brussels, where leaders worked to thrash out a "comprehensive response" to the crippling debt crisis by the end of the month.
Markets remain unconvinced that countries like Greece, the crisis' first victim, will become financially self-sufficient anytime soon, despite a long series of brutal austerity measures. More than a year into the debt crisis, Europe still faces much the same problems as a year ago _ except that after endless promises, negotiations, and two bailouts, jittery markets now appear at the end of their tether.
Greece and Ireland are reeling from the effects of steep budget cuts, while Portugal and much larger Spain are scrambling to avoid a similar fate. The governments of fiscally strong states like Germany, the Netherlands and Finland, meanwhile, are reluctant to put up more money as pressure from their taxpayers grows.
LONDON _ A major earthquake and tsunami in Japan weighed on stocks in Europe and oil prices, but the yen rose because investors expect the Japanese to buy back their home currency.
Oil prices dropped below $100 per barrel for the first time in more than a week. Japan is the third-largest oil importer in the world.
The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed down 0.3 percent, France's CAC-40 fell 0.9 percent and Germany's DAX was 1.2 percent lower.
TOKYO _ The quake struck toward the end of the Asian trading session, driving Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index down 1.7 percent.
Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea's Kospi fell 1.3 percent, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was down 1.2 percent, Singapore's Straits Times dropped 1 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index shed 1.6 percent. China's Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.8 percent.
FRANKFURT, Germany _ Shares in some of the world's biggest reinsurance companies are took a pounding on fears that the earthquake in Japan and the subsequent tsunami will cost them dearly.
ATHENS, Greece _ Greece's budget deficit increased in the first two months of the year as the country struggled to raise revenues.
LISBON, Portugal _ Portugal's government announced more tax hikes and money-saving measures to ensure the country meets its deficit-reduction targets through 2013 and to ease market jitters over its debt load.
Portugal is one of Europe's weakest economies and is under acute market pressure to restore its fiscal health after piling up heavy debts during a decade of feeble growth. Analysts predict it may need a bailout like Greece and Ireland.
BERLIN _ Consumer inflation crept up for the fourth month running in Germany while wholesale prices rose even more sharply, cementing expectations the European Central Bank will soon crack down on inflationary pressures with an interest rate increase.
The Federal Statistical Office said consumer inflation in Europe's largest economy ran at an annual 2.1 percent in February, driven by climbing energy prices.
MOSCOW _ Sberbank, Russia's largest lender, said it will pay $1 billion to buy the country's second-largest investment bank, Troika Dialog, and stave off competition from local rival VTB.
ROME _ Italy's UniCredit bank is freezing shares held by Libyan shareholders to comply with a decision by the European Union.
LONDON _ Mortgage lenders in Britain say they advanced 26 percent less money for house purchases in December than in the previous month, a sharp drop likely due to greater uncertainty in the market.