Tokyo shares end morning mixed after bargain-hunting sparks mild rebound-UPDATE
Tokyo shares end morning mixed after bargain-hunting sparks mild rebound-UPDATE TOKYO (Thomson Financial) - Japanese shares finished the morning session on Tuesday mixed, with the benchmark index slightly firmer as investors bought back shares at bargain levels following recent slides driven by persistent worries over the US economy and the yen's rise.
Stocks opened lower after Wall Street continued to lose ground overnight amid a steady stream of negative news from the financial sector, sending the Nikkei down nearly 180 points to its lowest level since August 2005 at one stage.
Toward the morning close, trading reversed course as investors sought out bargains after realizing the Nikkei 225 has lost more than 680 points over the last two sessions. Investors also found relief from a pause in the yen's rise against the US currency. The dollar was trading at 101.76 yen, after hitting a low of 101.41 yen in early trade. The blue-chip Nikkei 225 index ended the morning up 17.20 points or 0.1 percent at 12,549.33, off a low of 12,352.79. The broader Topix index declined 3.83 points or 0.3 percent to 1,220.56. Decliners outnumbered gainers 917 to 665, with 126 issues unchanged. Volume dropped to 1.084 billion shares from 986 million Monday morning. Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 153.54 points or 1.29 percent at 11,740.15. Buying sentiment was hit by Blackstone Group's report of fourth-quarter results that missed Wall Street's expectations. The diversified financial company said its results - especially in its corporate private equity and real estate businesses - were hurt by 'challenging' economic conditions.
Additional pressure came from a rating downgrade by Moody's Investors Service on a batch of Bear Stearns' securities backed by Alt-A mortgages, or home loans given to people lacking proof of income or with minor credit problems.
'The (Japanese) market continues to focus on the three worrying factors surrounding the US -- anxiety about the credit crunch, recession and higher inflation -- and whether there will be any further developments,' said Shinko Securities strategist Tsuyoshi Segawa. 'The subprime loan problem won't be resolved unless the US government comes up with a plan to inject public funds into the US financial system or launch the purchase of non-performing loans, ' said Yoshikiyo Shimamine, chief economist at Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute.
'There are expectations that the US government will work out a measure on this,' Shimamine said.
Mizuho Financial shed 3,000 yen or 0.8 percent to end the session at 385,000. Investors found little comfort from a Nikkei report that its retail banking unit Mizuho Bank has decided to sell about 100 billion yen in loans made to Goodwill Group Inc to an alliance consisting of US equity fund Cerberus Group and US brokerage Morgan Stanley. Other big banks were weaker, with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial down 9 yen or 1.1 percent at 841 and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial down 15,000 yen or 2.2 percent at 665,000. Nonferrous metals and steel issues turned higher as investors snapped up bargains. Top non-ferrous smelter Mitsubishi Materials gained lost 12 yen or 2.8 percent to 437 after falling as low as 411, while major smelter Sumitomo Metal Mining rose 76 yen or 3.8 percent to 2,065. Nippon Steel climbed 9 yen or 2 percent to 467, while rival JFE Holdings advanced 190 yen or 5.1 percent to 3,950. Exporters were mixed, with Toyota Motor up 10 yen or 0.2 percent at 5,210, major office equipment and digital camera maker Canon down 50 yen or 1.1 percent at 4,480, and electronic giant Sony down 10 yen or 0.2 percent at 4,370.