Nikkei drops 1.43 pct as Swiss removes currency cap against euro

TOKYO, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) — The Nikkei stock index lost 1.43 percent Friday, relinquishing gains made the previous day, as investors switched into yen currency havens pushing its price up versus its major counterparts and impacting export and tech- related issues, following the Swiss National Bank (SNB)’s shock decision to remove its currency cap against the euro.

The Nikkei 225 fell 244.54 points to end the week at 16,864.16, having lost as much as 3 percent during trading hours, while the broader Topix index of all first-section shares was down 0.93 percent, or 12.87 points, to close at 1,363.73.

Brokers here said that global markets were taken by surprise by the Swiss National Bank’s decision to abandon its three-year old 1. 20 Swiss francs per euro currency cap, which saw the Swiss currency climb more than 30 percent against the euro within minutes after the announcement.

The Swiss franc surged to 96 centimes per euro, having hit 85. 17 centimes, marking its strongest level since record keeping began.

Regarding the bank’s cap, first introduced in September 2011, the bank said in a statement that the cap had previously, ” protected the Swiss economy from serious harm, but isn’t necessary any longer.”

Market analysts here said the move from the SNB coming just a week before the first (2015) European Central Bank (ECB) meeting in Frankfurt, at which a massive stimulus package could be floated that could further see the value of the single European currency further devalued, spooked investors and saw them reposition themselves into safe havens like the Japanese yen.

They added that market sentiment also remained muted following a five-day run of closing lows on Wall Street.

“The Swiss announcement is weighing on the market. There aren’t many domestic things in play now, so risk-off sentiment is the biggest driver,” noted Eiji Kinouchi, chief technical analyst at Daiwa Securities Group Inc.

Other analysts pointed to the SNB’s move as preempting the ECB’ s plans to likely added massive amounts of fresh stimulus to the struggling region.

Juichi Wako, a senior strategist at Nomura Holdings said, ” Keeping the franc weak against the euro might have been too costly for the SNB, especially with the European Central Bank potentially adding more stimulus.”

In currency markets Friday, the U.S. dollar was changing hands at lows of 115.84 yen, dropping from 116.25 yen logged in New York and significantly lower than 117.70 yen booked in Tokyo on Thursday. But the greenback rose to 116.57 yen in Tokyo in later trade Friday.

The stronger yen saw exporter issues pressured as their respective companies rely on a weaker yen to boost overseas profits on favorable exchange rates when they’re repatriated and a softer yen gives Japanese brands a competitive pricing edge in foreign markets, which sees export and tech firms’ profit outlooks increase.

Top-automaker Toyota reversed 0.15 percent to close at 7,514 yen and Mazda Motor fell 0.6 percent. Fuji Heavy Industries, meanwhile, who produce Subaru cars, decelerated 1.7 percent to finish at 4,170 yen.

Consumer electronics firm Sony, maker of PlayStation game consoles and Bravia LCD TVs, slumped 4.63 percent to 2,384 yen, while Canon fell 1.18 percent to 3,757 and Nikon, who also produce cameras, relinquished 2.3 percent to close the week at 1,458 yen.

Synthetic rubber maker JSR Corp. tumbled 6 percent to 1,908 yen, after reports the firm will announce an operating profit of 8.07 billion yen, far below median analysts’ estimates of 9.84 billion yen.

Swiss-related issues lost ground Friday, with Chugai Pharmaceutical, slipping 2.47 percent to 3,150 yen and biopharmaceutical company Sosei Group, dropped 4.59 percent to finish at 3,945 yen.

Dowa Holdings, a nonferrous metals manufacturer, was notable gainer on the market Friday, however, jumping 6.8 percent to 924 yen, after reports the group’s pretax profit in the nine months through December climbed almost 20 percent from a year earlier.

Trading volume on Friday increased to 2.71 billion shares on the Tokyo Exchange’s First Section, up from Thursday’s volume of 2. 50 billion shares, with declining issues outnumbering advancing ones by 1,615 to 206.

Nikkei Futures

nikkeifutures.org@imediaone.com

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