Nikkei falls as yen slide slows

By Shinichi Saoshiro

TOKYO (BestGrowthStock) – Japan’s Nikkei average fell 1.1 percent in heavy trade on Wednesday, surrendering earlier gains as the yen’s retreat in the wake of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s resignation slowed.

Declines in Chinese and other Asian shares also weighed on Tokyo stocks. Commodity shares were hit as metal prices sank on worries about China’s economy (Read more about the fastest growing economy.).

Hatoyama, his ratings in tatters, said on Wednesday he was stepping down along with his party’s powerful No.2 executive in an effort to boost the ruling party’s prospects in an election expected next month.

The news temporarily hauled the Nikkei out of the red and pushed down the yen against the euro and dollar but the impact faded.

“The Nikkei bounced earlier, led by a rise in futures fueled by a dip in the yen. But the momentum of the bounce was lost as the yen hasn’t budged any further,” said Yumi Nishimura, deputy general manager at Daiwa Securities Capital Markets.

The Nikkei (.N225: ) ended down 108.59 points at 9,603.24 after rising as high as 9,763.41. It opened the day down more than 1 percent following Tuesday’s slide on Wall Street.

The broader Topix (.TOPX: ) lost 1.1 percent to 870.05.

“The resignation of the prime minister was not a very big market-moving factor and the focus has drifted toward the decline in Chinese and Asian stocks,” Nishimura said.

The Shanghai Composite index (.SSEC: ) fell 1.1 percent and the MSCI index of Asia Pacific ex-Japan stocks (.MIAPJ0000PUS: ) lost 0.9 percent.

“The euro hit a fresh trough against the dollar yesterday and is cooling market sentiment. When the currency will bottom out remains a key concern” for the stock market, Nishimura added.

Prime Minister Hatoyama’s resignation was greeted with a dash of optimism for the economy but also with a healthy dose of skepticism over whether a sea change in politics is likely.

“I don’t think it’s going to change anything much, the reason being that whoever it is going to be after Hatoyama will have to continue roughly his policies and will still face the same election in July,” said Pascal Masse, head of investment department at Aberdeen Investment Management in Tokyo.

“I think it’s kind of the gamble they took to try and improve their standing before the election.”

Trade was the heaviest this week with 2.2 billion shares changing hands on the Tokyo exchange’s first section. Declining shares outnumbered advancing ones by nearly 4 to 1.

The market focus remained on the wobbly euro and the prospects for China’s economy (Read more about the fastest growing economy.).

Worries about the Chinese economy grew after the pace of factory output eased last month as gradual policy tightening took a toll on new orders.

Trading houses and smelters tumbled as metals prices dropped on worries about Chinese demand, with Shanghai zinc futures down by their 5 percent daily limit and copper also sliding.

Japan’s largest trading house, Mitsubishi Corp (8058.T: ), fell 3.8 percent to 1,954 yen and Dowa Holdings (5714.T: ), a leading nonferrous smelter, dropped 3.1 percent to 464 yen. Trader Itochu Corp (8001.T: ) lost 3.4 percent to 719 yen.

Other shares in firms with big operations in China also fell. Komatsu, the world’s second-biggest maker of earth-moving machinery, shed 2.6 percent, Hitachi Construction (6305.T: ) fell 3 percent and Kawasaki Kisen (9107.T: ) lost 2.2 percent.

Nintendo (7974.OS: ) ended down 2.5 percent to 26,420 yen after the game console maker said it plans to cut the price of some of its DS handheld game consoles in Japan.

Stock Market Research

(Additional reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Nikkei falls as yen slide slows