Nikkei plunges below 17,000 mark

Stocks came under heavy selling Tuesday amid risk-averse sentiment stemming from tumbling crude oil prices, driving down the Nikkei average below 17,000 for the first time in about three weeks.

The Nikkei 225 average plunged 525.52 points, or 3.02 percent, to 16,883.19, closing below the psychologically important 17,000 for the first time since Dec. 17. It was the largest single-day point loss since February 2013. On Monday, the key market gauge retreated 42.06 points.

The Topix lost 39.95 points, or 2.85 percent, to end at 1,361.14 after shedding 6.42 points Monday.

Both indexes extended their losing streak to a fourth session.

The TSE tumbled from the outset after the Dow Jones industrial average suffered its steepest one-day point fall in three months on Monday. The Dow’s plunge came after the benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures contracts dropped below $ 50 per barrel for the first time in about five years and eight months.

The Nikkei accelerated its downswing in late trading, driven by unwinding of arbitrage positions linked to index futures on the back of the yen’s strengthening against the dollar, brokers said.

Several technical charts indicate Tokyo stocks have been oversold, brokers said. The Nikkei has shed over 900 points in the four sessions through Tuesday.

“Sluggish crude oil prices are positive for non-oil producing countries, including Japan,” said Ryuta Otsuka, a strategist in the investment information department of Toyo Securities Co. “As far as the Dow keeps falling due to energy concerns, however, Tokyo stocks will remain under selling pressure.”

Still, many analysts believe that the market’s downside will be underpinned by expected buying from the Government Pension Investment Fund and purchases of exchange-traded funds by the Bank of Japan.

“The Nikkei will start a rebound if profit-taking on U.S. equities comes to a halt,” Otsuka said.

Falling issues far outnumbered rising ones 1,771 to 69 in the first section, while 19 issues were unchanged.

Volume increased to 2.69 billion shares from Monday’s 2.05 billion shares.

All 33 sector subindexes of the first section ended lower.

Automakers including Toyota, Honda and Mazda came under selling pressure due to the stronger yen.

Megabank groups Mitsubishi UFJ, Sumitomo Mitsui and Mizuho were downbeat after their U.S. rivals posted hefty losses overnight.

Heavyweight components of the Nikkei average drove down the benchmark index. Among them were clothing retailer Fast Retailing, camera maker Canon, robot-maker Fanuc and mobile carrier KDDI.

On the other hand, a handful of winners included food processing firm Yonekyu, food maker Nagatanien, mobile game site operator DeNA and Skymark Airlines.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key March contract on the Nikkei average tumbled 480 points to end at 16,900.

Nikkei Futures

nikkeifutures.org@imediaone.com

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