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Japanese shares plunge amid global economic worries

Japan’s markets were trading sharply lower on Friday amid concerns over the global economy and following steep falls in Europe and the US.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 opened down more than 3.5% at 15,122.06 points.

It continued to fall in early trade to below the psychologically important level of 15,000 points, marking its lowest level since late 2014.

Shares then saw some movement upwards, but fell back again later to be down 4% at 15,087.89 points.

Overnight, benchmark indexes in London, the US and Europe posted sharp declines amid continued worries over the strength of the global economy – particularly the outlook for the world’s largest economy, the US.

US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen’s gloomy economic assessment on Wednesday was continuing to hurt investor sentiment around the world, analysts said.

Ms Yellen said financial conditions in the US had become “less supportive” of growth, dousing hopes of a second rise in interest rates in the near future.

Why are global markets in turmoil? – Kamal Ahmed, Economics editor, BBC News

It’s a mix – part economic fundamentals, part market emotion as herding investors follow each other down a negative spiral, fearful of being left beached as the tide goes out, and part brute market forces, the major trading houses looking to make a profitable turn on share prices which they bet are not going up any time soon.

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Big exporters in Japan were being hurt too, as the dollar fell to a 15-month low against the yen. A stronger yen against the dollar hurts Japan’s exporters as it makes their products more expensive to purchase overseas.

Toyota was down more than 4.8%, Honda had shed more than 3.6% and Nissan was down more than 2.5%.

The Nikkei was closed on Thursday for a public holiday.

Elsewhere, Australian stocks were being hurt by falling global oil prices, with some energy related stocks together with the country’s big lenders weighing down the index.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.78% to 4,783.30 points.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index was down 0.78% to 1,847.02, in line with regional sentiment.

Investors will be watching markets in Hong Kong after the Hang Seng index shed more than 4% on Thursday. The index was down 1.11% to 18,340.48 points in early trade.

The Shanghai Composite remains closed until next week for the Lunar New Year break.


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