The Tokyo Stock Exchange ended Wednesday, the year’s last trading day, on a lackluster note amid lingering worries about bleak economic prospects.

The 225-issue Nikkei average fell 4.73 points to end the half-day session at 13,842.17. The benchmark average was down 1,114.67 points, or 7.5 percent, from the start of 1998, on top of a 21.5 percent fall the previous year.

After having plunged below the 13,000 level in early October to hit its lowest level in nearly 13 years, the key market gauge edged up but still finished lower for the third year in a row.

Gloom deepened over the nation’s financial crisis in recent months as growing pessimism over the prospects of a recovery, along with fears of contagion from financial crises in emerging markets, sent Tokyo share prices reeling, eroding latent profits on equity portfolios of financial institutions and companies in the nation’s backbone industries.

Major financial institutions have gone under, including Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan and Nippon Credit Bank, and a severe credit squeeze has forced a number of undercapitalized firms out of business as well, driving up the nation’s jobless rate to 4.4 percent, the highest on record.

With signs of economic recovery nowhere in sight, gloom spread over brokerage and exchange officials attending the traditional hand-clapping ceremony to mark the year’s last trading session.

This will be the last yearend ceremony on the exchange’s trading floor, which will cease to exist in April when all trading through brokerages will be switched to dealings on a computer-driven communications network.

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