Nikkei plunges on Greek debt worries

Stocks retreated sharply Thursday, pressured by profit-taking amid renewed wariness over Greek debt problems.

The Nikkei 225 average lost 174.12 points to end at 17,504.62 after jumping 342.89 points Wednesday.

The Topix fell 6.89 points to close at 1,410.11 a day after rising 24.61 points.

The TSE came under selling pressure following a lackluster performance by U.S. equities overnight and a pause in the yen’s weakening.

Investor sentiment was hurt by renewed wariness over Greek debt problems after the European Central Bank announced a decision Wednesday not to receive Greek government bonds as collateral for its fund supply to banks, brokers said.

Profit-taking after the previous day’s surge also battered stocks. The market, however, saw buying on dips on the back of solid earnings reports from key firms, including electronics giant Sony, brokers said.

“I do not think the Greek problems will be a huge risk factor for Japan. The market is less likely to be seriously affected by the Greek debt crisis if it does not spread to other countries,” said Nobuyuki Fujimoto, a market analyst at SBI Securities Co.

A wait-and-see mood ballooned in the afternoon as investors wanted to await U.S. government employment data for January, due out Friday. An increase in nonfarm payrolls in Automatic Data Processing Inc.’s employment report for January, released Wednesday, failed to meet market expectations, brokers said.

If the upcoming employment data doesn’t show improvement in terms of both quantity and quality, New York stocks will be sold, an official at a bank-affiliated brokerage firm said.

Falling issues outnumbered rising ones 1,174 to 570 on the first section, while 118 issues were unchanged.

Volume decreased to 2.645 billion shares from 2.727 billion on Wednesday.

Automaker Toyota and electronics maker Hitachi lost ground as investors believed there would be no more positive incentives for the time being after their earnings reports turned out strong, brokers said.

Mobile carrier SoftBank, textile maker Toray Industries and industrial robot maker Fanuc were downbeat.

On the other hand, Sony rocketed 12.01 percent after scoring a daily-limit gain, becoming the most active issue on the first section by value. The company on Wednesday projected a group operating profit for the current business year to March, a turnaround from its previously estimated loss.

Daily goods manufacturer Kao shot up 1.87 percent on its better than expected operating profit estimate for the year to this December.

Sumitomo Mitsui and Mitsubishi UFJ and insurer Dai-ichi Life were also higher.

In index futures trading on the Osaka Exchange, the key March contract on the Nikkei average slumped 180 points to end at 17,480.

Nikkei Futures

nikkeifutures.org@imediaone.com

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