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Nikkei drops 93 points over Hokkaido quake fears

JIJI

Stocks fell further Thursday on the Tokyo Stock Exchange after being battered chiefly by concerns over a major earthquake that rocked Hokkaido overnight.

The 225-issue Nikkei average shed 92.89 points, or 0.41 percent, to end at 22,487.94, down for the fifth session straight. The decline marked the Nikkei’s longest losing streak since the six-day decline through Jan. 31. It dropped 116.07 points Wednesday.

The Topix index of all first-section issues closed down 12.55 points, or 0.74 percent, at 1,692.41, falling for the sixth session in a row. It retreated 13.28 points the previous day.

Brokers said the market came under selling pressure amid worries about the economic impact of the quake, which was later updated to 7, the maximum on the Japanese seismic intensity scale.

“It is difficult to buy until the whole picture of the damage from the earthquake becomes clear,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management Co.

But the effects of the magnitude 6.7 quake on stocks “is expected to be limited in the long run,” Ichikawa said.

Chihiro Ota, general manager for investment research and investor services at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., said the market was dragged down mainly by futures-led selling inspired by both the temblor and Typhoon Jebi, which ripped through western Japan on Tuesday.

Ichikawa said market players retreated to the sidelines to await the outcome of U.S.-Canadian talks that resumed Wednesday on revamping the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Falling issues overwhelmed rising ones 1,538 to 504 on the TSE’s first section, while 64 issues were unchanged.

Volume grew to 1.280 billion shares from Wednesday’s 1.234 billion shares.

Hokkaido Electric Power closed 6.43 percent lower after the quake left all households in Hokkaido, totaling 2.95 million, without electricity.

Travel agency H.I.S. met with selling on jitters over a possible fall in demand following the quake and the shutdown of Kansai International Airport due to Typhoon Jebi, brokers said.

Also on the minus side were game maker Konami and semiconductor-related Tokyo Electron.

In the meantime, Inpex was buoyant after Daiwa Securities Co. revised its investment rating and target price upward for the oil firm.

Other major winners included mobile phone carrier SoftBank Group and clothing retailer Fast Retailing.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key September contract on the Nikkei average finished down 80 points at 22,480.