Nikkei briefly slips below 19,000 on weak ‘tankan’ data

Stocks lost further ground on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Wednesday after a disappointing “tankan” business sentiment survey by the Bank of Japan, with the benchmark Nikkei slipping below 19,000 during trading for the first time in some three weeks.

The Nikkei 225 stock average slumped 172.15 points, or 0.90 percent, to end at 19,034.84. On Tuesday, it fell 204.41 points.

The broader Topix index of all first section issues lost 14.12 points, or 0.92 percent, to 1,528.99, after dropping 14.66 points the previous day.

The Tokyo market made a sluggish start to the new fiscal year after the Dow Jones industrial average plunged Tuesday on rekindled concern over an early interest rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve. In Tokyo, investor sentiment was also hurt by worse-than-expected results in the BOJ’s tankan quarterly survey, released just before the opening bell.

The Nikkei briefly extended losses to about 280 points, dragged down by futures-led selling presumably by overseas hedged funds. In the middle of afternoon trading, however, stocks cut losses thanks to buybacks and buying on dips, as well as hopes for exchange-traded fund purchases by the BOJ and stock buying by pension funds.

In the tankan, the diffusion index for large manufacturers’ current business conditions stood at plus 12, against an average forecast of plus 14 among 23 economic research institutes surveyed by Jiji Press. Large manufacturers’ outlook diffusion index toward June came to plus 10.

“Investors were particularly concerned about the dismal outlook diffusion index rather than the current conditions figure,” said Kenichi Hirano, market analyst at K Asset Co.

The weak tankan results caused wariness about the course of the economy, an official at a bank-affiliated brokerage firm said.

“The Tokyo market has entered a phase where it adjusts its speed (after the recent surge),” Hirano said, and stocks are seen as remaining in a correction phase until investors receive news on earnings from key firms in late April through early May.

Falling issues far outnumbered rising ones 1,353 to 415 in the first section. Volume increased to 2.510 billion shares from Tuesday’s 2.364 billion.

Export-oriented names were battered by profit-taking. Among them were automakers Toyota, Honda and Mazda, as well as camera maker Canon and electronics giant Panasonic. Other major losers included drug manufacturers Takeda, Eisai and Astellas, as well as mobile carriers Softbank, KDDI and NTT Docomo.

On the other hand, domestic demand-oriented issues were buoyant. They included railway operators JR East and JR Tokai and realtors Sumitomo Realty and Mitsui Fudosan. Also on the plus side were clothing retailer Fast Retailing, Japan Tobacco and game maker Nintendo.

Nikkei Futures

nikkeifutures.org@imediaone.com

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