Nikkei falls, hurt by strengthening yen

Last Updated: Tue, May 01, 2012 03:40 hrs

By Sophie Knight

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average fell 0.9 percent on Tuesday morning as the yen hovered near two-month highs against the dollar, weighing on exporters, and euro zone uncertainty heightened investor caution.

The Nikkei dipped to 9,435.73 and the broader Topix fell 0.8 percent to 797.66, p ropelled downwards by a rallying yen on the back of poor economic data from the U.S. and lower-than-expected industrial growth in China.

"Although the U.S. macro data looks bad, earnings for individual stocks has been surprisingly good this year, so I don't think a strengthening yen is going to be a long-term trend," said Tetsuro Ii, the president of Commons Asset Management.

China reported its official purchasing managers' index (PMI) hit a year high of 53.3 in April, signalling the economy has found a footing, but the data undershot market expectations of 53.6.

Exporters were under pressure from the rallying yen, with Honda Motor Co's <7267.T> dip of 1.6 percent weighing on the market as it was the most heavily traded stock by turnover. Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> lost 1.8 percent, while Nissan Motor Co <7201.T> dropped 2.2 percent.

The yen strengthened above 80 on Monday on weak data from the United States and Europe, despite further moves by the Bank of Japan on Friday to try to pull the economy out of deflation.

"The BOJ made their big move on Friday so there's now little they can now do in the short term to remedy the currency woes," Ii said.

Uncertainty surrounding the euro zone intensified as Spain said Monday it has fallen into recession after its economy contracted in the first quarter, as severe government cuts to reduce the deficit hampered growth.

The prospect of a European Central Bank meeting on Thursday and French and Greek elections on May 6 that could impact future decisions on strategies to contain the euro zone debt crisis aided the bearish atmosphere.

Market participants said investors were unlikely to make major adjustments to their positions with most Asian markets closed on Tuesday and two more national holidays on Thursday and Friday in Tokyo, which was also closed on Monday.

However, Hideyuki Ishiguro, assistant manager for investment strategy at Okasan Securities, said investors could be on the look out for bargains.

"Investors might also begin to pick up some good deals as there's a lot of attractively priced stocks with the Topix below 800," he said.


Mixed results from Japan's earning season prodded some heavy selling. Sharp Corp <6753.T> was one of the biggest losers, shedding 8.3 percent after logging a record annual loss amid dwindling demand for its LCD panels and TV sets.

Yamada Denki Co Ltd <9831.T> also sagged 8.8 percent to a three-month low after the home electronics retailer cut its earnings forecast, citing falling prices for its products and the end of a government subsidy for eco-friendly products.

Denso Corp <6902.T> bucked the trend to advance 1.5 percent after the car electronics and electrical parts maker beat its fourth-quarter operating profit forecast by 49 percent to 78.6 billion yen on the back of higher output.

The Nikkei lost 5.6 percent last month, its worst April performance in 7 years, following a rally of over 19 percent in the first quarter.

(Editing by Richard Pullin)

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