The balance of long margin positions turned lower last week as the first upturn in eight weeks proved short-lived.

The balance of shares bought on credit — a sensitive indicator of investor confidence — stood at 1.59 trillion yen, down 2.89 billion yen from a week earlier, according to a weekly Tokyo Stock Exchange report.

In volume, the balance fell 15.1 million shares to 2.61 billion shares.

Share prices rebounded strongly at the start of the week, but the upturn soon fizzled. With selling pressure continuing through the rest of the week, individual investors who borrowed from brokers to buy shares were forced to unwind their long margin positions at losses, brokerage officials said.

The 225-issue Nikkei average ended the week at a new 16-year low of 11,445.54, down 289.52 points, or 2.5 percent, from a week earlier.

The balance of shares sold short meanwhile stood at 906.18 billion yen, down 9.37 billion yen — a second weekly decline.

In volume, the balance of short selling rose 25.47 million shares to 1.11 billion shares, mirroring a switch away from pricey shares to cash in on profits.

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