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Tokyo share prices slid broadly in trading Oct. 13 amid incessant concerns over the strength of the economy, leaving the market’s benchmark index at its lowest level this year.The 225-issue Nikkei average fell 172.22 points — roughly 1 percent — to end the day at 17,204.70. The previous closing low for the year was 17,303.65, set Jan. 10.Since late last month, the market has been closing lower on an almost daily basis. Lack of confidence in economic prospects at home was the main reason for the bearishness at the Tokyo Stock Exchange, according to industry officials.Brokerage officials said market participants also were obsessed with fears of a negative impact on Japanese industries stemming from the Southeast Asian currency crisis. The yen’s strengthening against the dollar on Oct. 13 also affected investor sentiment by renewing concerns over the earnings prospects of export-oriented businesses, which are supporting the economy at this point, dealers said.Responding to questions at the day’s session of the Lower House Budget Committee, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto acknowledged that he was “not at all optimistic” about the economy and stressed the need for measures to accelerate deregulation and change the nation’s economic structure. Koji Omi, director general of the Economic Planning Agency, added that the government’s forecast of 1.9 percent economic growth for the current fiscal year might be difficult to achieve, given the adverse effects of the April consumption tax hike.But Vice Finance Minister Takeshi Komura told a news conference that while some economic indicators seem to be dominated by the current sense of pessimism toward the economy, the government’s belief that the recovery is stable remains unchanged.The government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are currently pondering steps to stimulate the economy without putting the nation further into fiscal debt. A pump-priming package with further deregulation measures, tax incentives and some steps to spur real estate transactions is expected sometime next week, LDP officials said.

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