Business / Financial Markets | TSE DATA & REPORT

Nikkei falls on virus fears to end below 17,000 for first time since 2016

JIJI

The benchmark 225-issue Nikkei average turned sharply lower to end below 17,000 for the first time in over three years on Wednesday, amid continued market turbulence caused by the novel coronavirus.

The Nikkei plunged 284.98 points, or 1.68 percent, to finish at 16,726.55, its first close below 17,000 since Nov. 9, 2016. On Tuesday, the key market gauge edged up 9.49 points.

The Topix index of all first-section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange closed up 2.38 points, or 0.19 percent, at 1,270.84, after jumping 32.12 points the previous day.

The Tokyo market rose from the outset, with sentiment brightened by the Dow Jones industrial average’s 1,000-point rally on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday welcoming a $1 trillion U.S. stimulus package proposed by the administration of President Donald Trump.

But after active buying peaked in the early morning, stocks showed unstable movement until late afternoon, when selling pressure quickly increased to send the Nikkei deep into negative territory.

The market was supported by possible purchases of exchange-traded funds by the Bank of Japan and cash stocks by pension funds, brokers said. But selling gathered steam in late trading as U.S. stock futures widened their losses in off-hours trading, they noted.

Investors quickly became risk-averse “fearing that U.S. stocks will suffer a sharp downturn later on Wednesday,” said Tomoaki Fujii, head of the investment research division at Akatsuki Securities Inc.

“Without Wall Street regaining stability, the Tokyo market cannot stage a full-fledged recovery,” Fujii also said.

A Japanese bank official attributed the Nikkei’s late afternoon plunge to the absence of media reports suggesting progress in negotiations on the U.S. stimulus package between the Trump administration and Congress.

On the TSE’s first section, falling issues outnumbered rising ones 1,298 to 835 while 33 issues were unchanged. Volume decreased to 2.718 billion shares from Tuesday’s 3.065 billion shares.

SoftBank Group plunged on a media report about the technology investor’s withdrawal of part of its financial support for U.S. office-sharing firm WeWork.

Clothing store chain Fast Retailing met with selling after announcing that it will temporarily close all 50 Uniqlo casual wear stores in the United States amid the spreading virus outbreak.

Among other losers were industrial robot producer Fanuc and mobile phone carrier KDDI.

Meanwhile, Fujifilm Holdings surged after the Chinese government confirmed efficacy of the Avigan influenza drug developed by a Fujifilm affiliate in treatment of coronavirus patients.

Also on the negative side were technology and entertainment giant Sony and job information service firm Recruit Holdings.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key June contract on the Nikkei average lost 160 points to end at 16,510.

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