Tue, Jan 27, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Japanese shares fall in slow Asian trade

MARKET HOLIDAYS: The Lunar New Year shut bourses in Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, while Australia and India also closed for national days

AGENCIES , TOKYO

Stocks fell yesterday in Japan, the only major Asian market open amid a slew of regional holidays, as investors braced for earnings this week from Sony, Honda and other major names.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average ended down 0.8 percent at 7,682.14 after tumbling 3.8 percent to a two-month low on Friday. The broader TOPIX index fell 0.7 percent to 768.28.

US stock index futures were down, suggesting Wall Street would open lower yesterday. Dow futures fell 66 points, or 0.8 percent, to 7,907 and S&P 500 futures slipped 9 points, or 1.1 percent, to 814.50.

On Friday, investors’ ambivalence about earnings reports produced a mixed performance on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones industrials falling 0.6 percent to 8,077.56, but broader stock indicators rising.

Markets in Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan were closed for the Lunar New Year holidays. Australian and Indian markets were also closed for national holidays.

In Tokyo, nervous investors were in no mood to buy ahead of the expected flurry of dismal third quarter results and a worsening outlook, said Masayoshi Okamoto, head of dealing at Jujiya Securities in Tokyo.

“They’re hanging back and trying to figure out what to do next,” he said. “[Earnings] will likely be worse than anyone imagined, and investors know that the situation will deteriorate even further in the January-March quarter.”

Battered by a global slump, Japan’s big exporters have been slashing production, earnings forecasts and jobs, and stock prices have fallen accordingly.

Sony Corp, which last week projected its first annual net loss in 14 years, fell 3.1 percent. The electronics giant reports fiscal third quarter results on Thursday, followed by Honda Motor Co on Friday.

But Nomura Holdings Inc, which reports today, managed to edge up 0.5 percent on hopes that in the third quarter, Japan’s top brokerage had finished writing off costs related to its purchase of Lehman Brothers’ operations in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The issue rose despite weekend news reports that Nomura’s October-December losses could total a worse-than-expected ¥300 billion (US$3.4 billion).

Among the few stock markets open in the region, Thailand’s benchmark index rose 0.8 percent and the Philippines’ key index was up 0.7 percent. New Zealand’s market ended flat.

Australia’s market, closed for Australia Day, will reopen today, as will trading in India, which was observing Republic Day.

Markets in Singapore and South Korea will reopen tomorrow, Hong Kong’s markets will reopen on Thursday and trading in China and Taiwan will resume on Monday

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser did not rule out that more money might be needed to stabilize the US financial system.

The Federal Open Markets Committee meets today and tomorrow, with the market awaiting signs of how the Fed will help the broader US economy now its main monetary tool, the fed funds rate, is set to remain in a range of zero to 0.25 percent.

“What investors are concerned about most is the health of the UK and European banking sectors and that is hitting European currencies and lifting the dollar, while hopes for the Obama administration helping the US economy persist,” said Yasutoshi Nagai, senior economist at Daiwa Securities SMBC.

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