/ |

Nikkei logs first close below 15,000 since October 2014


Stocks lost further ground Friday following the yen’s sharp ascent and overnight plunges in stock markets overseas, with the benchmark Nikkei average closing below 15,000 for the first time in nearly 16 months.

The 225-issue Nikkei average lost 760.78 points, or 4.84 percent, to close at 14,952.61 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, its first finish below 15,000 since Oct. 21, 2014. On Wednesday, the key market gauge ended down 372.05 points.

The market was closed on Thursday for a national holiday.

The Topix index of all first-section issues finished down 68.68 points, or 5.43 percent, at 1,196.28, after falling 39.37 points the previous trading day.

Both gauges extended their losing streak to a third session.

The Tokyo market opened sharply lower after European and U.S. equities tumbled on Thursday. Tokyo stocks were also battered by the yen’s rise against the dollar amid a growing risk-averse mood.

In New York Thursday, the 30-issue Dow Jones industrial average plunged, weighed down partly by a sharp fall in crude oil prices. The key West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures contract also hit its lowest in about 12 years and nine months.

The yen’s ascent came as speculation weakened over a March interest rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve following remarks by Fed Chair Janet Yellen during congressional testimony earlier this week, according to brokers.

The remarks also dampened hopes for U.S. economic growth, the brokers said.

In the afternoon, stocks attracted buybacks as expectations grew that measures may have been discussed at a meeting Friday between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda, but selling resumed toward the close, the brokers said.

“Worries grew about the course of the global economy after Yellen’s remarks” that suggested a possible delay in the Fed’s second interest rate hike, said Yutaka Miura, senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities Co.

Some buybacks were seen after the Abe-Kuroda meeting, but “the market generally showed unstable moves throughout the day,” Miura said.

Miura pointed to the possibility that Tokyo stocks could rebound sharply if positive market-moving factors emerge, such as a rally in U.S. equities and the dollar.

But the Japanese market is basically expected to test its lows, with more wild swings in the works, he added.

Falling issues overwhelmed rising ones 1,877 to 53 in the TSE’s first section, while seven issues were unchanged.

Volume ballooned to 4.70 billion shares from Wednesday’s 3.85 billion shares.

All 33 sector subindexes on the first section ended lower.

Heavy selling induced by the higher yen hit export-oriented names, including automakers Toyota, Mazda and Fuji Heavy, industrial robot manufacturer Fanuc, camera maker Canon, and electronics parts producer Murata Manufacturing.

Other major losers included mega-banks Mitsubishi UFJ, Sumitomo Mitsui and Mizuho, along with mobile phone carrier SoftBank and leasing firm Orix.

By contrast, beverage maker Sapporo Holdings was buoyant after reporting brisk earnings estimates for the current fiscal year.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key March contract on the Nikkei average ended down 870 points at 14,800.