Individual, foreign players on selling streak

Individual investors were net sellers of stocks for the third week in a row last week.

They sold 78.98 billion yen more than they bought, down from 137.13 billion yen the previous week, according to a weekly industry report on transactions on the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya exchanges. The figure comprises both cash and margin transactions.

Their purchases totaled 665.8 billion yen, a fall of more than 60 percent from the recent high of 1.77 trillion yen set in the third week of February.

A broad array of stocks have come through severe corrections in recent weeks, frightening individual investors away from the markets, brokerage officials noted.

The recent volatile moves on the markets have left investors with huge losses, prompting them to unwind their portfolios.

The considerable loss of the market value among shares bought on credit, notably information and telecommunications issues, set off margin calls from stockbrokers, forcing investors who borrowed to buy stocks to liquidate their margin debts at losses.

Foreign investors remained net sellers of Japanese stocks for the fifth straight week — an unusually long period of net selling for them in recent years. Their net selling totaled 86.71 billion yen, compared with 142.88 billion yen the previous week.

After vying for market leadership for years, foreigners continued to unwind their Japanese portfolios to cash in on profits and make up for losses on their equity holdings on the New York Stock Exchange and other bourses overseas. , brokerage officials said. In terms of volume, however, foreign investors’ purchases exceeded sales, reflecting a switch away from high-priced information technology shares and into low-priced “old economy” shares that had been neglected in the recent rallies.

Trust banks turned net sellers for the first time in four weeks.

Given this week’s world stock market rout triggered by precipitous falls in New York share prices late last week, a quick upturn in investment in Japanese stocks appears unlikely, brokerage officials noted.

With IT shares and other recent market darlings remaining mired at depressed price levels, individual investors appear in no mood to return to the market in search of gains in the near term, they said.

The downtrend in Tokyo share prices continued unabated this week, with the benchmark 225-issue Nikkei average ending at 18,252.68, down 2,580.53 points, or 12.4 percent, from its recent high of 20,833.21 set on April 12, the highest close since Dec. 5, 1996.