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Nikkei finishes below 15,000 in cautious mood

JIJI

The Nikkei 225 stock average ended below the 15,000 threshold for the first time in 2½ months Tuesday, extending its losing streak to a fourth market day amid a persistent wait-and-see mood ahead of key events in the United States and Japan.

The Nikkei lost 25.57 points to end at 14,980.16, the first closing below 15,000 since Nov. 14. On Monday, the key gauge tumbled 385.83 points. The Topix dropped 4.92 points to close at 1,224.31 after giving up 35.37 points Monday.

The market opened higher as investors moved to scoop up shares on dips after Monday’s selloff. Fears about the vulnerability of the Argentine peso and the Turkish lira, which spooked the U.S. and Japanese equity markets in recent sessions, appeared to have subsided for the time being, brokers said.

Investors also took heart from the yen’s easing against the dollar and other major counterparts after its recent appreciation, brokers said.

But the Nikkei quickly lost steam and dipped into negative territory, pressured by profit-taking ahead of the start later Tuesday of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting through Wednesday. Investors were also reluctant to buy before seeing Japanese firms’ April-December earnings results.

Although the key index recouped losses to return to positive territory in midmorning thanks to buying on dips, it gradually lost strength in the afternoon.

The market was caught in a tug of war between investors seeing any drop in stock prices as an opportunity to buy and those trying to lock in profits on concerns about the external investment climate.

Masashi Oguchi of Mito Securities Co.’s investment information department said that although many see the U.S. economy recovering, Wall Street has not stopped falling yet, which makes it difficult for players in Tokyo to be optimistic.

Volume fell to 2.732 billion shares from 3.264 billion Monday.

Sony fell 2.69 percent after Moody’s Japan downgraded the electronics maker to junk status.

JGBs log modest rise

Japanese government bonds edged higher Tuesday, but their topside was heavy.

The lead March futures contract on 10-year JGBs closed up 0.02 point from Monday at 144.66, extending its winning streak to a fifth trading day. Volume fell to 23,787 contracts from 31,669.