The Tokyo stock market has remained in a corrective phase in recent weeks as information-technology and other high-priced issues continue to take a battering.
The considerable loss of market value among high-flying issues has set off waves of margin calls from stockbrokers. They are seeking bigger cash deposits from individual investors who have borrowed from brokers to buy those stocks, forcing investors to unwind their long positions.
Their selloffs include shares bought on credit as well as securities they deposited with brokers to help finance the margin transactions.
Another key downside factor has been the April 24 reshuffle of the 225-issue Nikkei average, which set off selling along a broad front.
The key market gauge has apparently plunged 2,000 points more than it would otherwise reasonably have done, leaving investors with considerable losses and dashed expectations.
Political uncertainty in the wake of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s death has also hurt investor sentiment.
The replacement of 30 of the 225 Nikkei components has added to fears of contagion from the slide of the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index on Wall Street.
Fears of additional interest rate hikes in the United States are widespread ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting set for June 27 and 28.
Given the falling balance of long margin positions on the New York market, further selloffs appear inevitable and a fresh flurry of selling could send the Nasdaq index below 3,000.
Having topped $270 billion in March, the U.S. balance of shares bought on margin fell some 10 percent in April.
Still, the Nasdaq index showed a 37 percent drop from its recent peak last week and investors could soon begin to envisage a floor forming beneath the current level.
The balance of shares bought on credit on the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya exchanges stood at 2.96 trillion yen at the end of last week, down 39.6 percent from the March 3 peak of 4.9 trillion yen.
The liquidation of long positions no doubt has helped ease potential selling pressure on the Tokyo market.