June 14, 2016 / 2:13 AM / 2 years ago

Nikkei falls to more than 2-month lows on Brexit concerns

* Exporters extend declines on strong yen

* Financials drop, investors brace for Fed, BOJ

By Ayai Tomisawa

TOKYO, June 14 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks fell to more than a two-month lows in choppy trade on Tuesday, pressured by growing concerns that a referendum next week could push Britain out of the European Union.

The Nikkei share average dropped 1.3 percent to 15,817.74 in midmorning trade after falling to as low as 15,796.56 earlier, the weakest level since April 12. The index briefly popped into the black in opening deals, but any hope it could recoup some of Monday’s sharp 3.5 percent slide was shortlived.

A relatively firm yen kept pressure on exporters. The Japanese currency was at 105.975 against the dollar, near Monday’s six-week high of 105.735 yen. A break of that level could lead to a test of its 18-month high of 105.55 set on May 3.

Toyota Motor Corp dropped 1.1 percent, Honda Motor Co fell 1.6 percent and Nissan Motor Co declined 1.1 percent.

Overall, sentiment remained weak in tandem with a selloff in global riskier assets as recent polls suggested the June 23 referendum could see Britain exiting the European Union, traders said.

“Short-term hedge funds have started betting on Brexit, and futures players will likely dominate the market’s move today,” said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

Financials also lost ground as investors braced for key central bank meetings this week, including the Federal Reserve over Tuesday and Wednesday, and the Bank of Japan on Wednesday-Thursday.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group shed 2.0 percent, Mizuho Financial Group dropped 1.6 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group declined 2.0 percent.

While the Fed is expected to keep U.S. interest rates steady at this week’s meeting, markets will be keenly lapping up its policy statement for clues on when the next tightening might occur.

The BOJ is expected to keep policy steady, though the yen’s renewed strength is making its job difficult.

Bucking the weakness, apparel store operator Shimamura Co Ltd gained more than 4 percent after the Nikkei business daily reported that the company’s group operating profit likely jumped 30 percent for the March-May period.

The broader Topix dropped 1.3 percent to 1,267.82, and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 shed 1.2 percent to 11,426.63. (Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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