Tokyo stocks plummeted to a new 20-year low Monday, as the growing threat of war in Iraq and a sliding dollar prompted investors to sell a broad range of shares.
The benchmark 225-issue Nikkei stock average briefly slipped below the 8,000-point level before recouping some of its heavy midafternoon losses.
By the close, the Nikkei had fallen 101.86 points, or 1.25 percent, to 8,042.26 points — its lowest since it closed at 8,027.64 points on March 10, 1983. On Friday, the index lost 225.03 points, or 2.69 percent, to finish at 8,144.12.
The dollar traded at 116.68 yen at 5 p.m. Monday, down 0.50 yen from late Friday and also below its New York level late Friday of 117.06 yen. The currency traded between 116.64 yen and 117.14 yen in Tokyo.
On the stock market, depressed brokerage and banking issues undercut the Nikkei.
Traders cited uncertainty about the impact a possible U.S. attack on Iraq would have on the global economy. Investors brushed aside Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa’s remarks that share price movements were “abnormal” and that he would prod stock exchange officials to investigate, traders said.
Banks, which have shed between 20 percent and 30 percent of their value in the past month, were the day’s biggest losers, following a weekend report in the Nihon Keizai financial newspaper that a major Japanese life insurance company plans to unload some of its bank stockholdings. Major banks Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial Group and UFJ Holdings all plunged, as did brokerages Nikko Salomon, Daiwa Securities Group and Nomura Holdings.
Shares of export-dependent issues ended mixed, some — including chip makers Tokyo Electron and Advantest — hurt by the dollar’s slide to 116 yen levels.
A strong yen makes Japanese exporters’ products less competitive abroad and takes a bite out of overseas earnings when brought home.
The broader Topix index retreated 11.65 points, or 1.47 percent, to 784.52 points at Monday’s close, renewing a 19-year low. The Topix, which includes all first section issues, tumbled 20.05 points, or 2.46 percent, to end at 796.17 points — its lowest level since Aug. 9, 1984.
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