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Nikkei ends below 17,000 on yen’s rise


Stocks lost further ground on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Wednesday, weighed down by the yen’s strengthening against the dollar, with the Nikkei average ending below 17,000 for the first time in a week.

The 225-issue Nikkei average shed 224.57 points, or 1.31 percent, to close at 16,878.96, its first finish below the 17,000 line since Thursday. On Tuesday, the key market gauge lost 30.84 points.

The Topix index of all first-section issues ended down 21.31 points, or 1.55 percent, at 1,356.29, after retreating 4.25 points the previous day.

The Tokyo market got off to a weaker start, pressured by the dollar’s fall below ¥113 after U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, in a New York speech Tuesday, showed a careful stance toward a near-term interest rate hike.

Dismal Japanese economic data, released just before the opening bell, also pushed down the market, brokers said. Japan’s industrial production in February fell 6.2 percent from the previous month, hitting the lowest level in more than three years.

Stocks showed some resilience late in the morning session, backed by hopes for economic stimulus measures by the Japanese government. But the market extended losses toward the close, as active trading was held in check ahead of the release of key economic indicators later this week, including U.S. jobs data for March, brokers said.

An official of a bank-affiliated securities firm said that Yellen’s comments were not different from those made at a news conference after the Fed’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee meeting earlier this month, but taken as more dovish after recent hawkish remarks by other Fed policymakers.

“Investors found it difficult to buy stocks actively in the wake of falls in crude oil prices and the yen’s rise,” said Kenichi Hirano, market analyst at K Asset Co.

In addition, worries about corporate earnings made investors cautious about stepping up purchases, he said.

“But the market is unlikely to fall sharply as hopes remain that the government will map out economic stimulus measures ahead of the upcoming Group of Seven summit” in Japan in May, Hirano added.

Another securities firm official said that the market is waiting for details of the expected economic stimulus measures, following the passage of the fiscal 2016 state budget on Tuesday.

Falling issues far outnumbered rising ones 1,419 to 466 in the TSE’s first section, while 59 issues were unchanged.

Volume grew to 1.91 billion shares from Tuesday’s 1.75 billion shares.

The higher yen battered export-oriented names, such as automakers Toyota and Fuji Heavy and electronic parts producers Murata Manufacturing, Nidec and Denso.

Oil companies Inpex and JX Holdings met with selling due to lower crude oil prices.

Trading houses Marubeni, Mitsui and Mitsubishi were also on the minus side.

By contrast, drug makers Peptidream and Ono Pharmaceutical attracted buying.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key June contract on the Nikkei average finished down 160 points at 16,940.