Nikkei falls 1 percent as rebound stalls, TEPCO hits record low

By Chikafumi Hodo and Antoni Slodkowski

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Nikkei average slipped more than 1 percent on Tuesday with the mood soured by Tokyo Electric Power’s fall to an all-time low, while the market’s post-quake rebound looks to have run its course.

The Nikkei’s climb over the previous two sessions took it near its 200-day moving average at 9,822 but that level and the 9,800 line proved to be stiff resistance for a market still troubled by uncertainty over the exact impact of the massive March 11 earthquake.

Shares of Tokyo Electric Power (9501.T: Quote, Profile, Research) extended losses in afternoon trade on Tuesday, tumbling by their daily limit of 80 yen, or 18.1 percent, to a record low of 362 yen amid mounting investor concern about the financial burden of dealing with a tsunami-hit nuclear power plant.

“There was a sharp drop in the Nikkei and we’ve seen a swift rebound. That’s normal. But from now on people will start pricing in fundamentals and that will push the market gradually lower, so we’ll see more moves like today in the coming weeks,” said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

The benchmark Nikkei average (.N225: Quote, Profile, Research) closed down 1.1 percent, or 103.34 points, at 9,615.55 on Tuesday, with foreign investors spotted heavily offloading blue-chip exporters.

Toyota Motor Co (7203.T: Quote, Profile, Research) shed 2.4 percent to 3,260 yen and Hitachi Ltd (6501.T: Quote, Profile, Research) lost 2.1 percent to 418 yen.

The broader Topix (.TOPX: Quote, Profile, Research) shed 1.5 percent to 847.16.

Fujito said foreign investors were turning away from Japan to emerging markets such as India, Indonesia and South Korea.

Foreigners, who account for more than 60 percent of trade on the Tokyo bourse, bought nearly 3 trillion yen ($35.7 billion) of Japan shares from November to March, including during dips after the panic post-quake sell-off, but are now looking to lighten their holdings especially in domestic-demand related sectors such as real estate and department stores, analysts said.

LIGHTENING HOLDINGS

The real estate sector (.IRLTY.T: Quote, Profile, Research) has slid about 17 percent since the quake, compared with the Nikkei’s loss of some 8 percent, on worries about a slump in demand and lower rents, while major retailing names, such as department store Takashimaya Co (8233.T: Quote, Profile, Research), are hovering more than 20 percent below their pre-quake levels.

Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said on Tuesday that Tokyo Electric planned to start paying compensation to those who had to evacuate or suffered other losses due to the nuclear power crisis before damages have been assessed, although the utility said nothing had been decided on compensation payouts.

“If we think about all the people and businesses affected by the (nuclear) accident, and the compensation that would have to be paid, there’s no way shareholders could be fully protected,” said Fujito.

Chipmakers such as Elpida Memory Inc (6665.T: Quote, Profile, Research) slipped after the Philadelphia semiconductor index (.SOX: Quote, Profile, Research) fell almost 1 percent and Nomura Securities maintained a neutral view on semiconductor stocks, citing weakened demand, peak gross margins and higher capital spending in the sector.

Elpida fell 4.2 percent to 1,068 yen.

Oil prices hit their highest since 2008 on Monday on supply concerns, but oil-related shares such as Japan’s largest oil and gas developer, Inpex Corp (1605.T: Quote, Profile, Research), and trading houses such as Mitsui & Co (8031.T: Quote, Profile, Research) fell roughly in line with the benchmark.

“Resource stocks have broadly outperformed the market after the quake and it comes as no surprise that they find it hard to post further advances,” said Hideo Arimura, senior fund manager at Mizuho Asset Management.

Resource-related shares have been bolstered by climbing commodity prices and expectations of rising demand, as Japan rebuilds after the quake and uses more fossil fuels while it struggles with a prolonged nuclear crisis. Inpex has surged over 16 percent since the quake.

But Shin Kobe Electric Machinery Co (6934.T: Quote, Profile, Research) soared 12.5 percent to 1,240 yen after the Nikkei business daily reported that it has developed a large secondary battery system that can power factories during rolling blackouts.

(Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Joseph Radford)

Nikkei falls 1 percent as rebound stalls, TEPCO hits record low