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Stocks dive on renewed concern over Ukraine

JIJI

Stocks plummeted Friday, dragged down by massive selling due to reignited concerns over the Ukrainian crisis, with the benchmark Nikkei average hitting a one-month closing low.

The Nikkei 225 average tumbled 488.32 points, or 3.30 percent, to end at 14,327.66, the lowest closing level since Feb. 14. On Thursday, the key market gauge slumped 14.41 points.

The Topix closed down 38.76 points, or 3.22 percent, at 1,164.70, the lowest finish since Feb. 6, after falling 3.48 points Thursday.

Both indexes extended their losing streak to a third session.

The TSE came under heavy selling pressure after the Dow Jones industrial average slumped overnight.

Wall Street’s plunge came after Secretary of State John Kerry warned Thursday that the United States will take very serious measures against Russia depending on its action after residents in Crimea, southern Ukraine, vote on whether the region should join Russia. Dismal Chinese economic data, released Thursday, also chilled investor sentiment.

Tokyo stocks were hit by selling by individual investors and unwinding of arbitrage positions linked to index futures amid the yen’s strengthening against the dollar and the euro, brokers said.

The Nikkei average accelerated its downswing and briefly nose-dived more than 500 points in the afternoon due to a surge of arbitrage unwinding amid heightened risk-averse sentiment, brokers said.

No one was willing to buy on dips until they see the outcome of Sunday’s referendum in Crimea, brokers said.

Investors regarded Japanese stocks as saleable compared with U.S. and European shares as they expect no market-boosting events, such as additional easing steps by the Bank of Japan, for the time being, brokers said.

Hiroichi Nishi, equity general manager at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., said, “Negative incentives, including Kerry’s remarks and disappointing Chinese data, amplified position-adjustment selling prior to the weekend.”

Falling issues overwhelmed rising ones 1,749 to 33 in the TSE’s first section, while 10 issues were unchanged.

JGBs up as stocks fall

Japanese government bonds rose Friday due mainly to lower stock prices.

The lead June futures contract on 10-year JGBs closed up 0.18 point from Thursday at 144.75. Volume fell to 33,826 contracts.