Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said Oct. 24 that he is concerned about the worldwide plunge in stock prices triggered by the free fall on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange the previous day, adding that Japan will continue to monitor the markets closely.Responding to questions from reporters, Hashimoto expressed anxiety over the decline in stock prices in Japan, Asia, Europe and the United States since Oct. 23, when Hong Kong stocks closed 10.4 percent lower. The Tokyo Stock Exchange showed the effects of the overnight falls in overseas markets as the benchmark Nikkei 225 average immediately dipped below the 17,000 level at the start of morning trading. The Nikkei closed Oct. 24 trading at 17,363.74, 212.19 up from Oct. 23.Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka told a morning news conference that he believes markets were reacting to general uncertainties over the current economic situation, but said the movements in Tokyo are only temporary. “Japan’s economic fundamentals are stable, and the moderate recovery trend in the economy will continue in the mid- to long-term,” he said, adding that authorities will keep a close eye on developments in the stock market.

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