UPDATE 1-Spot uranium slides 9.8 pct, biggest fall since 2008

Tue Mar 15, 2011 1:29pm EDT

* Biggest weekly drop since 2008 global financial crisis

* Japanese crisis undermines speculators in uranium

* Uranium miners extend losses,

By Eric Onstad

LONDON, March 15 (Reuters) - The spot uranium price fell 9.8 percent to $60.00 per lb in the week to Monday after a crisis hit Japan's nuclear sector in the wake of a devastating earthquake, UX Consulting said on Tuesday.

The price of uranium oxide fell from $66.50 the previous week, the biggest weekly drop since the global financial crisis in late 2008, UXC said in a report.

The market was on edge after surging 76 percent over six months to a peak in early February of $73 per pound, it said.

"It is thus not surprising that the market reacted the way that it did to the news out of Japan, which was a complete shock and certainly one of the most significant events in the history of the market," the report said.

Japan faced a potential catastrophe after a quake-crippled nuclear power plant exploded and sent low levels of radiation floating towards Tokyo. [ID:nLDE72D2FT]

Prime Minister Naoto Kan urged people within 30 km (18 miles) of the facility to remain indoors amid the world's most serious nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986.

Analysts told Reuters on Monday that uranium prices were expected to slide as speculators cash out and confidence in nuclear power is shaken following the Japanese crisis. [ID:nLDE72D1AJ]

The spot market is illiquid and volatile since a substantial amount of uranium is sold on long-term contracts.

Uranium miners extended losses on Tuesday, with top producer Cameco (CCO.TO) of Canada sliding 5.5 percent and Paladin Energy (PDN.TO) sinking 10.4 percent.

In Sydney, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA.AX), a unit of global miner Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) (RIO.L) shed 14.3 percent and Extract Resources EXT.AX crashed 18.5 percent.

UXC said the short-term outlook for the market was uncertain.

"In the short term, or until price falls sufficiently to stimulate new buying interest, recent developments will make it less likely that investors will enter the market for financial reasons," the report said.

"In addition, investors are now confronted with a situation that they really do not understand, a circumstance that is not conducive to investment or speculation." (Editing by Jason Neely)

FILED UNDER: