Nikkei posts biggest loss in 10 weeks, semi-conductor shares hit

jueves 26 de marzo de 2015 02:27 GYT
 

* Semi-conductor sector leads losses
    * Weak U.S. durable goods orders hit risk sentiment
    * Market cautious on developments in Yemen; oil firms gain
    * Many investors remain optimistic over Japan's economic
outlook

    By Hideyuki Sano
    TOKYO, March 26 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average
dropped on Thursday as investors sold semi-conductor and other
hi-tech shares after their U.S. peers were sold off sharply
following soft U.S. economic data.
    News that Saudi Arabia and Gulf Arab countries had launched
military operations in Yemen to beat back Shi'ite militia forces
also dampened the mood, although it benefited oil shares as oil
prices rose. 
    The Nikkei fell 1.4 percent to 19,471.12, its
biggest fall in 10 weeks, slipping from a 15-year high of
19.778.60 touched on Monday.
    Among semi-conductor shares, Sumco fell 5.2 percent
and Tokyo Electron 5.8 percent in reaction to the heavy
losses in U.S. counterparts.
    Other high-tech shares also fell, with Fujitsu 
shedding 3.1 percent and Sony dropping 3.3 percent.
    The broader Topix fell 1.5 percent and the
JPX-Nikkei Index 400 dropped 1.4 percent.
    Sentiment was hurt by data showing spending on U.S. durable
goods fell for the sixth straight month in February. Exports to
the United States have been one of the brightest spots for the
Japanese economy.
    The military intervention in Yemen also hurt risk appetite,
some market players said.
    "It is becoming like a proxy war between Sunnis and Shi'ites
so it is a source of concern ... Given the weakness in U.S.
share markets overnight, this might be used as a reason to sell
shares," said Norihiro Fujito, a senior investment analyst at
Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.
    Shippers fell 2.6 percent, the worst performance 
among the Tokyo Stock Exchange's 33 industry subindexes, because
of growing worries about the safety of sea routes near the Red
Sea.
    In contrast, oil company shares gained 1.0
percent as oil prices jumped more than 3 percent.
    Some analysts noted signs that foreign speculators such as
hedge funds were starting to sell Japanese shares, which have
outperformed many markets this quarter.
    "Those agile players are starting to take profits. That is a
change you need to pay attention to. When they start to sell,
they could sell 2-3 trillion yen and bring down the Nikkei by
2,000 points," Fujito said.
    On the whole, however, market players say the mood is
resilient after an 11 percent gain in the Nikkei this quarter,
which would be the biggest quarterly rise since late 2013 if
sustained.
    The market has been supported by hopes of buying from
Japanese public investors, such as the Government Pension
Investment Fund, which have been allocating more money to stocks
under the auspices of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
    Hopes that a rise in wages could boost long-dormant domestic
consumption are underpinning the market.
    "The big change is that until fairly recently, a lot of
foreign investors were very sceptical about Abenomics and about
the Japanese macroeconomic situation," said Richard Dingemans,
CEO at Pelargos Capital, based in The Hague, the Netherlands.
    "But with a bit more lasting impact of Abenomics, and also
the push from Abe-san himself for better corporate governance,
increasing the returns of companies, companies are getting more
profitable and that will also enable them to pay higher wages,"
he said.

 (Additional reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Alan Raybould)