Japan’s Nikkei dives as yen gains strength
Yen changes direction, drags down Nikkei
Japan’s stock market dived on Monday after the yen reversed some of its recent fall against the US dollar. Stocks elsewhere in Asia were mixed as investors tried to sort out conflicting indicators about the health of the global economy.
The Nikkei 225 shed 3.1 per cent to 14,157.34, after its stalwart export sector was hit with wide-ranging losses. The benchmark in Tokyo has been on a tear, rising 36 per cent since the beginning of the year. The yen’s steady fall against other major currencies has been a major market propellant but it reversed some of that decline Monday after reaching 103 to the dollar last week.
The currency’s slide is a byproduct of the economic stimulus policies embraced this year by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has embarked on an aggressive campaign to lift consumer prices and encourage borrowing and spending. As part of that effort, Japan’s central bank is flooding its financial system with money — action that has helped reduce the value of the yen.
Hopes for a global economic recovery were undermined last week when a survey on China’s monthly manufacturing pace showed a bigger-than-expected decline. Less-than-clear indications from the US Federal Reserve on whether it might scale back its aggressive bond-buying program also caused investors to curb their enthusiasm.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.1 per cent to 22,595.57. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.3 per cent to 1,979.56. Benchmarks in mainland China, Singapore and Taiwan rose. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.6 per cent to 4,953.30. Benchmarks in the Philippines, New Zealand and Indonesia fell.
On Wall Street on Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.1 per cent, to 15,303.10. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell less than 0.1 per cent to 1,649.60. The Nasdaq composite index fell less than 0.1 per cent to 3,459.14.
Markets in the US will be closed Monday for Memorial Day.
Benchmark oil for July delivery was down 78 cents to US$93.37 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 10 cents to US$94.15 a barrel on the Nymex on Friday.
In currencies, the euro fell to US$1.2924 from US$1.2934 late Friday in New York. The dollar was at 100.99 yen down from last week’s high of more than 103 yen per dollar.